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What is the difference between unified commerce and connected commerce?

Last updated on December 21, 2023

Before explaining the difference between unified commerce and connected commerce, it would be better to explain what it means to us.

Unfortunately, the market is plagued by a significant amount of confusion and misalignment regarding concepts like multi-channel, omnichannel, and unified commerce. These terms are often mistakenly interchanged despite their distinct meanings, further exacerbating the problem.

What is unified commerce?

Without going deeply into the differences in the meaning of multichannel and omnichannel, to me, Unified commerce refers to the seamless integration of all channels and touchpoints into a single, cohesive system.

In essence, unified commerce enables customers to have a consistent experience across all channels. It's like having everything in one place, making it easier for you to manage and provide a seamless shopping experience for your customers.

Unified commerce aims to provide customers with a consistent and unified shopping experience across all platforms, whether it's online, in-store, mobile, or social media. In a unified commerce approach, all data, including inventory management, order fulfilment, and customer data, are centralised and synchronised. This allows retailers to have a holistic view of their customers, inventory, and operations, enabling them to deliver personalised and consistent experiences regardless of the chosen channel.

What is connected commerce?

Connected commerce, on the other hand, emphasises the connection and interaction between different channels and touchpoints. It focuses on integrating these channels to provide customers with a more connected and interactive shopping experience. The emphasis is on creating synergies between channels and processes, such as linking online and offline, integrating payments and delivery methods, leveraging mobile and digital devices for customer interactions, or utilising social media platforms for customer engagement. The goal is to enable customers to seamlessly switch between channels and mediums while maintaining a consistent experience and leveraging the unique advantages of each channel.

For Connected Commerce, let’s think of it as a way to make different shopping channels work together, focusing on linking them and making them work together smoothly. 

  1. Imagine browsing a product on your Smart TV screen, then effortlessly transitioning to your mobile device to complete the purchase.
  2. You can order the product online and conveniently make payment using ApplePay, GooglePay, or other digital wallets.
  3. Opt for the option to pick up the item at the nearest physical store, where you can also use your mobile device to interact with the store's services.
  4. Even after leaving the store, you can continue to engage with it through your mobile device.
  5. Should you decide to return the goods, you have the flexibility to do so online, at a designated delivery point, or at another store.
  6. Regardless of where you return the item, the system recognises your original order, allowing you to simply tap your credit card.

The goal is to create a more interactive and connected experience for customers by leveraging the strengths of each channel.

Benefits to your business

Furthermore, adopting and combining unified and connected commerce approaches can bring huge benefits to a business. Here are some key performance indicators (KPIs) (source: Planet customer panel) that can help demonstrate the value of adopting a connected commerce solution:

1.  Conversion Rate: Unified and Connected commerce solutions aim to provide a seamless customer experience across channels, which can positively impact conversion rate, for example, by showing the real availability of products in any location. The typical conversion rate increase is around 10%.

2.  Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Connected commerce empowers businesses to gather comprehensive customer data across multiple channels, thereby enhancing customer loyalty, increasing customer retention, promoting repeat purchases, boosting order value, and maximising overall customer value in the long run.

3.  Order Fulfillment Time (OFT): A unified and connected commerce solution brings efficiency to inventory management, order processing, and fulfilment operations, significantly reducing the time required to fulfil customer orders across various channels. This optimisation leads to improved operational processes and faster order fulfilment, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction. With our solution, the Order Fulfillment Time can be reduced to a fraction of its original duration, even as low as an hour in the case of click & collect express.

4.  Cross-Channel Sales: Unified and connected commerce solutions facilitate cross-channel sales, allowing customers to start their purchase journey in one channel and complete it in another. Thanks to unified commerce, the percentage of sales that involve interactions across multiple channels increases and demonstrates the success of the solution in driving cross-channel engagement and revenue growth. Our solution has demonstrated a notable impact on customer behavior, with users experiencing a significant increase in cross-selling and upselling conversions, ranging from 5% to 15%. This success translates into higher average order values, with an uplift of approximately 10%, and a commendable revenue increase of 6%. Notably, click&collect and click&reserve buying processes contribute substantially to digital revenues, accounting for over 30% of the overall digital sales.

5.  Return Rate: A unified and connected commerce solution that offers consistent product information and a seamless return process can help reduce return rates.

6.  Operational Efficiency: Implementing a connected commerce solution often involves integrating various systems, processes, and stakeholders. Measuring operational KPIs such as inventory turnover, order accuracy, and process cycle time can help gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of the solution in optimising business operations and reducing costs.

Omnichannel payments: A key component in the connected commerce experience

Another vital component of a connected commerce solution is the seamless integration of omnichannel payment systems, encompassing both online (card not present) and offline (card present) channels. This integration brings forth an essential aspect of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance and omnichannel tokenization. By adopting omnichannel tokenization, businesses can greatly enhance customer expectations regarding payment security and convenience in an omnichannel environment. Here's how these aspects contribute to the overall experience:

1.  Enhanced payment security: PCI DSS is a set of security standards designed to protect cardholder data and prevent fraud. By complying with PCI DSS requirements, businesses ensure customer payment information is handled securely across all channels.Knowing that their sensitive data is being protected instils confidence in customers, regardless of the channel they choose to purchase.

2.  Seamless and secure ayment experience: Omnichannel tokenization, a technique that replaces sensitive cardholder data with unique tokens, adds an extra layer of security and convenience to the payment process. When customers make a purchase, their card details are tokenized, reducing the risk of data breaches or theft. With tokenization, customers can initiate transactions across multiple channels without repeatedly entering their card information, enhancing convenience while maintaining data security.

3.  Consistent experience across channels: Omnichannel tokenization ensures a consistent payment experience for customers across different touchpoints. Whether customers make a purchase in-store, online, or through a mobile app, the tokenization process remains the same. This consistency helps create a seamless and familiar experience, reinforcing customer expectations and reducing friction during the payment process.

4.  Flexibility and convenience: Customers today expect flexibility and convenience when it comes to making payments. By implementing omnichannel tokenization, businesses can offer customers various payment options and methods across channels. Customers can choose their preferred payment method (credit card, mobile wallet, etc.) and seamlessly switch between channels without disruption. This flexibility enhances the overall customer experience and meets the expectations of modern consumers.

5.  Reduced compliance burden: Implementing PCI DSS compliance measures can be complex and resource-intensive for businesses. However, organisations can reduce the scope of PCI DSS requirements by leveraging omnichannel tokenisation. Tokenization minimises the handling and storing of sensitive payment data, reducing the compliance burden and simplifying the security infrastructure. This allows businesses to focus on delivering a better customer experience while maintaining the necessary security standards.

PCI DSS compliance and the implementation of omnichannel tokenization improve customer expectations by providing enhanced payment security, a seamless and consistent payment experience, flexibility in payment methods, and reduced compliance burdens for businesses. By prioritising payment security and convenience, brands can build trust, loyalty, and customer satisfaction in an omnichannel environment.

Overall benefits

Combining the strengths of both approaches, you will be able to deliver a comprehensive and immersive shopping experience. It would result in a holistic retail strategy that leverages seamless integration, consistent experiences, and interconnected channels. Let’s break down what that means.

  • Seamless integration: By merging unified and connected commerce, retailers can seamlessly integrate all channels and touchpoints. This would ensure consistent inventory management, order fulfilment, and customer data across all channels. Whether a customer interacts with the brand online, in-store, through mobile devices, or via social media, their journey and information seamlessly flow between channels.
  • Consistent experiences: The combination of unified and connected commerce would enable retailers to deliver consistent experiences at every customer touchpoint. Customers would enjoy a cohesive and personalised journey regardless of the channel or device used. They would encounter consistent branding, pricing, promotions, and product information, fostering trust and loyalty while eliminating friction and complexity.
  • Interconnected channels: Integrating unified and connected commerce would enhance the interconnectivity between channels, promoting a fluid and engaging shopping experience. Customers could seamlessly transition between online and offline interactions, accessing a wider range of services and benefits. For example, they might browse products online, reserve or purchase them for in-store pickup, receive personalised recommendations via their mobile devices while physically in the store and pay on their mobile phones via a retailer’s app on the way out. This integration would create a more immersive and interactive customer journey.

 

In essence, merging unified and connected commerce would result in a powerful and customer-centric approach, where channels seamlessly integrate, experiences remain consistent, and customers enjoy a connected and immersive journey across multiple touchpoints.

In this realm of unified commerce, every channel, be it online, in-store, mobile, or social media, seamlessly converges into a single orchestration, like the notes of a symphony. Your inventory, sales data, and customer information dance synchronously, elegantly twirling in perfect harmony. This seamless integration allows you to conduct a symphony of personalised experiences, irrespective of the chosen channel, enchanting your customers with a consistent and enchanting shopping journey.

Going a step further, picture a retail landscape where diverse channels intertwine like vibrant threads in an exquisite tapestry. Connected commerce weaves a narrative where each virtual or physical channel gracefully interconnects and enriches the shopping experience. Customers can effortlessly traverse from the digital realm to a physical haven, seamlessly blurring the boundaries. Connected commerce paints a mesmerising picture where channels converge, empowering customers to embark on a unified journey that transcends limitations and delights their senses.

In summary, unified commerce orchestrates a symphony of integrated channels, providing a consistent experience, while connected commerce pieces together a musical score of interconnected channels, improving the overall journey to purchase. A perfect Polyphony!

 

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