Unified commerce vs omnichannel: what’s the difference and what does it mean for your business?

Updated May 13, 2019

When it comes to retail management, the concept of ‘unified commerce’ is elbowing ‘omnichannel’ out of the picture.

For over a decade, omnichannel linked together various digital and physical channels to make sure that the customer experience was seamless.

And while omnichannel management could look smooth on the surface, there could be rough patches underneath. For example, an omnichannel setup might enable data sharing between physical and online stores but the call centre was left out. Often held together with manual processes and complex integrations, omnichannel systems could be inefficient, costly and create complex dependencies.

When 78 percent of retailers admit that they are still unable to offer a unified brand experience across all channels, and reducing costs is so paramount, the decision on whether to stay with an omnichannel approach or move to a unified commerce platform is critical if you’re seeking to innovate, capture value and stay relevant.

Why unified commerce is now retail’s top priority – and should be yours too

Unified commerce is an architectural approach that effectively and seamlessly engages customers across all channels and touchpoints.

It works because it bypasses omnichannel’s limitations. Instead of connecting different systems, you create one common, centralised commerce platform that enables one version of truth across all channels.

The shift from channel-centricity to unified commerce

With all customer engagement points connected in near real time, unified commerce lets you deliver a holistic and personalised customer experience more consistently. That means you can treat each customer as the individual they are all the time – one person with one account, interacting with one unified brand.

But the benefits are not just confined to your customers. NRF research found that more than two-thirds of retailers expect a unified commerce platform to improve margin, brand value and revenue by more than 10 percent.

The study also found that 45 percent of retailers expect a unified commerce platform to drive innovation within their IT organisation through significant improvements in their ability to meet business demands faster. And 35 percent expect significant improvements in IT efficiency by reducing the time and budget for data security, maintenance and infrastructure.

As a result, our industry is enthusiastically embracing unified commerce, with 81 percent of US retailers indicating they plan to deploy unified commerce by 2020, and 28 percent saying they have already implemented unified commerce. 

Moving to a unified commerce platform

There are two important building blocks of unified commerce that help you put customer experience first:

  • Centralised data and transactions: By centralising data and transactions on one integrated platform, you gain a single source of truth which gives you more accurate and up-to-date information, and no need for duplication and manual processes.
  • Connected, open systems: A unified commerce architecture lets you easily share data and services across all your customer experience areas. Using APIs, you can innovate directly on the platform to create and deploy new apps, services, channels and devices.

You’ll reduce costs by eliminating complex integrations and you can focus on new initiatives that support your business to achieve greater agility, faster growth and more control.

How Infinity can help

We at Infinity have evolved our own omnichannel approach. We’ve taken all the power of Infinity’s point of sale, inventory, order, customer and analytics retail software and put it on an open platform.

Now each channel (and each team member) can access not only all your customer and inventory data, but also functionality, from one place to give each customer the best price, service and personalised experience, wherever and whenever they shop with you.

Infinity's open platform is easy to connect with new technology and legacy systems. You can innovate quickly, optimise inventory, maximise margin, understand customers and deploy new services – efficiently and profitably.

Your next step

To find out more about how Infinity can support your journey from omnichannel to unified commerce, get in touch. We’re keen to chat and help you move into your retail future.