How Unified Commerce is Transforming the Way We Shop

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Filip Sobiecki

Feb 21, 2022 • 7 min read
a person shopping online

By now, it’s fair to say that unified commerce has changed the face of retail and the shopping experiences that customers have come to expect.

Customers have become used to the flexibility that modern retailers now offer. You can now browse a store online, visit the shop, and order a product for delivery to your home — essentially mixing and matching the different elements of a customer’s buying experience.

In a panel at Netguru’s Disruption Forum Retail, Jakub Czerwinski, VP of Central and Eastern Europe at Adyen, discussed the topic of unified commerce and how it’s changing the experience of shopping.

What is unified commerce?

Unified commerce is the practice of connecting your customer-facing systems with backend systems to one single platform. This platform interconnects different aspects of ecommerce, including mobile commerce, customer relationship management systems, and centralizes data to help improve the customer experience.

Jakub defines it as the combination of three different elements that define every customer journey:

  • Where the purchase happens: When does the customer make the purchase of a product or service?
  • Where the product or service is being fulfilled: Where are they actually buying it, and where is it shipped from?
  • Where the transaction happens: Does the customer pay for it in-store, via mobile phone, or in a web browser?

"A unified commerce is nothing else but giving customers freedom to interact with brands and retailers the way they want to,"

— explains Jakub. "There’s already a great number of brands in the market that utilize unified commerce in their ecommerce strategy."

This isn’t purely a customer-only benefit either. In fact, businesses can greatly benefit from providing a more omnichannel shopping experience. According to research from Ayden, omnichannel shoppers are more likely to spend more money than those who in single-channel purchases. Any retailers who are not yet unified commerce-ready should make plans to become so.

Why Ayden turned to unified commerce solutions

Jakub explains that Ayden’s focus was originally on servicing merchants and processing payments. However, they eventually realized that many customers wanted solutions for brick-and-mortar businesses as well.

"Historically, a lot of these brands have very, very fragmented technological setup, including payments, point-of-sale systems, and order management systems."

That’s why Ayden decided to add point-of-sale terminals so that it could offer a solution for offline payments. This complemented what they were already offering to give people more options on the way they interact with their favorite brands.

It’s a win-win for brands and customers. Brands get to offer both offline and online payments. Customers get more flexibility on where they buy, how they buy and return items when needed. This flexibility helps to serve what is a complex web of buying preferences across a customer base.

What if you don’t embrace unified commerce?

What happens to retailers who decide not to offer this solution?

As Jakub puts it, "if you’re not going to do it, someone else will." Nowadays, the retail landscape is more competitive than ever. It’s harder and harder for brands to compete unless they are on the forefront of technological development. In other words, modern retailers can’t afford to fall behind with the times.

It’s not just about the flexibility of payments either. Jakub explains one example where Ayden, as a part of the Account Management services offered to selected partners only, helps a brand track and pinpoint customer interactions online or on mobile devices and build heat maps. This tells the retailer exactly where a good spot to open a physical store is to get closer to their online customers.

"Because we track and pinpoint specific customer interactions happening online, our customers in the US could generate heat maps, based on certain locations and IP addresses that helped them decide where to open a physical store or a showroom to get closer to their online buyers."

Another example is with the many stores that had to close down during the pandemic, many of them realized that online was the place to be. This wasn’t just the smaller stores either. Luxury brands that really benefit from being in centralized locations, for example, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, realized they couldn’t just wait for the pandemic to end.

They opened up online channels, and this exposure to different verticals made them realize that they could target a wider audience. It was no longer an average age of 50 for their customer base. Younger buyers started shopping there as well.

"If you're going to miss out on this boat, the tigers of that market will step in, and if you have a certain market share, they will take that market share from you."

How not to do unified commerce

The top mistake that Jakub sees companies making is following a do-it-yourself approach. These companies say they’re fine developing a unified commerce strategy and tools by themselves and don’t need help.

However, Jakub believes that even if you have a huge budget to set everything up, you still need to sustain and maintain those systems for years to come. Setting it all up yourself may be a great short-term solution, but for the long-term, Jakub says you should get some outside help.

"If you think about long term scalability of it, you're essentially becoming a tech company as well as a fashion retailer, for example. To what extent is that scalable? I don't know. I think it's not me to judge. But if I were an advisor and a consultant, I would say, maybe try not to do everything on your own."

Learning more about customer behavior

Learning more about customer behavior is a key part of designing a marketing strategy that works well. It’s also crucial in designing every aspect of the customer’s journey.

As Jakub explains, this gives you the power of having a completely different dataset and business intelligence that you can use to fine-tune the customer experience.

Traditionally, your online and offline customers are essentially anonymous to you unless they’re repeat customers logging in to your site. However, offline customers are totally anonymous.

"If you're able to tie in certain payment method with a specific profile of a customer, you can recognize their every single interaction with your brand regardless of where they show up."

With this information in hand, you can start to figure out more about the cost of getting each interaction with the customer. You can get to know them a bit better and understand where to focus your marketing resources for maximum effect.

This discussion is part of our Disruption Forum, an event where we invite experts to discuss what's next for retail, how to pick winning omnichannel strategies and how to leverage digital solutions to boost retail business. Sing up here to get unlimited access to this expert panel and many more.

Photo of Filip Sobiecki

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Filip Sobiecki

Senior Executive at Netguru and host of Disruption Talks
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