Why is there still a distinction between eCommerce and retail stores? Isn't it all just commerce?

Customers are no longer going shopping, they’re just shopping. Similarly, customers are not online or offline customers they’re just customers, and nor do they see your brand differently depending on the channel through which they are making a purchase. They simply have a need or desire to purchase, and they will do so through the mode most convenient and desirable to them. So is it time to do away with ‘eCommerce’ and ‘bricks and mortar’ and accept that this is all just ‘commerce’ and should be one unified experience?

The case for unified commerce

How we shop has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Where once department stores and mega malls reigned supreme as the shopping destination of choice, we now don’t even have to leave our beds, with the ability to shop from our mobile phones. Our habits have gradually and systematically changed as more options opened up to us and while we may have our preferences for how to shop, these too can vary depending on the product, brand or situation. And yet, despite the product and the business the customer is shopping with still being one and the same, the experience the customer receives, and the view of the customer the brand receives, can be very different. 

Often, this is the result of fragmented and siloed business departments. Few businesses have a customer experience department or even a CXO. Instead, they have marketing, customer service, eCommerce, retail ops, product buyers and so on, each with their own KPIs and responsibilities. This leads to an array of problems and each of them is passed on to the customer to the detriment of their experience and ultimately the business. 

So what needs to be done about it?

Firstly, recognise that your customers are your customers no matter how they shop, and the revenue that you gain is revenue to the entire business and not individual departments. This is important because in unified commerce there is no attribution to a particular channel or department and this is largely because customers can and do browse and purchase in so many ways, that attributing a purchase to any one channel, strategy or department is not only inaccurate but also naive. 

Your customers may choose to browse online before coming in store to purchase. Alternatively they may browse in store before coming to a decision and purchasing online. The same customer may do both depending on what they’re purchasing, where they are, how much time they have, who they are purchasing for, or the most convenient way to take delivery. There are so many variables that to try to create a linear path to purchase is fraught with assumption and error. 

The first step in unifying your commerce is to capture your customers’ information, analyse it to understand them, and create experiences based on true customer insight. 

Tools and Tactics to Create a Unified Experience

Customer Programs: Whether you call it a loyalty program, incentives or a membership, having a reason for your customers to identify themselves at every touchpoint is the first step towards unified experiences. It means regardless of the channel they choose to browse or purchase through, you can capture their information and use it to better understand them and deliver personalised services, offers and recommendations. It also allows you to build a view of your best customers and not only service them better, but find similar customers to build a more loyal, engaged and higher spending customer base. 

Clienteling: Provide a reason for the customer to identify themselves in store just as they would online and arm your customer service staff with the information they need to provide an exceptional and personalised customer experience, including purchase history, product preferences, and wishlist. Store staff can also use the platform to record what the customer browsed or tried in store for later reference, as well as access customer service history, receipts for exchanges, and rewards or credits available to use in the customer’s profile. 

Customer apps: Provide customers with an app that delivers value when used online or in store and remain logged in and active for fast and easy identification and shopping. Deliver additional value to your customers unique to the app experience to make it worth using and create interactions between themselves and your brand. 

eReceipts: Not only are they environmentally friendly, but they bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds by providing an electronic record of purchase for fast reference and ease of returns. When linked to a profile, they also act as a purchase history proving valuable for both the brand to see what the customer has previously purchased and when, as well as the customer for fast future reference and access. 

The future is now

Unified commerce and experiences is no longer a concept to prepare for in the future as an Asustrlalian retailer. It’s here and expected now, and those not willing or slow to change will see their customers shift to faster moving brands that provide them with more seamless, convenient and personalised experiences. 

Arkade is a Customer Experience Consultancy helping remarkable consumer brands identify and maximise the value of CX growth opportunities.

In assisting brands to identify and nurture their best and most valuable customers, Arkade provides critical insight to uncover, prioritise and capitalise on valuable CX improvement opportunities. By leveraging their team’s diverse set of solution design skills, Arkade works with brands to create sophisticated experiences that maximise existing capabilities within the retailer’s organisation to ensure that their customers and staff who value the brand, product and service experiences can engage on a deeper level.

Arkade specialises in delivering unified customer experiences and complex integrations across eCommerce, apps, in store experiences, loyalty programs  and communications.