The dynamics of commerce are constantly evolving, and we continue to see customers complete more of their entire shopping journey online. As they do, they’re leaving behind digital trails that today’s cutting-edge retailers and brands are leveraging—once the customer has opted in—to create more engaging and personalized shopping experiences for them.
These personalized experiences are not just created for online, however; they also include in-store, via mobile or voice assistants, and anywhere else retailers interact with their customers. This evaluation of the industry shows how commerce is progressing to better serve consumers in a unified world, where customer data is no longer locked up in separate channels or kludged together by finicky and fragile integrations.
A unified commerce environment is a world where customers can experience a brand in its entirety, rather than merely one channel within a brand. It’s a world in which retailers and brands leverage the single, 360-degree view of the customer in coordinated and strategic ways.
Personalization in a Unified Customer Journey—The Current State
Retailers find themselves in various stages of the personalization journey. For example, legacy personalization dates back to the traditional form of retail, in which retailers had one single channel, and therefore, only one chance to personalize the customer experience from a single touchpoint.
The current and most popular form of commerce in today’s retail environment is multichannel, where customers engage with multiple touchpoints throughout their shopping journey, but each channel acts independently, causing disjoined and inconsistent shopping experiences.
Moving from the multichannel standard, retailers aspire to provide an omnichannel experience in which customers see multiple touchpoints as part of one seamless experience. But stopping there still doesn’t allow for the necessary back-end connection between channels to better understand each individual consumer a retailer serves. Consider this truth of omnichannel efforts: The customer may perceive the online-offline experience as connected but operating in an “omnichannel” mindset doesn’t fully achieve a cohesive understanding of the consumer.
By moving beyond omnichannel to embracing the concept of a unified commerce strategy, retailers gain a single and connected view of the customer to strategically deliver more relevant personalization throughout the entire journey. As retailers connect their entire tech stack and data infrastructure, beyond just omnichannel, organizations can operate in a state of unified commerce.
In order to effectively achieve a unified commerce world, retailers need to harness unified customer data and personalization to orchestrate Online-to-Offline (O2O) customer journeys across multiple digital and face-to-face touchpoints.
Step One: Online Personalization
As consumers increasingly begin their purchase journey online, today’s retailers have the advantage of instantly grabbing consumers’ attention through personalized recommendations.
However, it’s no longer enough to just have an ecommerce site that demonstrates the entire product line. To deliver instant personalization, even for new visitors, retailers must look to quickly engage and learn about the customer through interactive content that begins identifying and exposing relevant products to the consumer to begin building their unique profile for future interactions.
As the retailer gauges intent, the proper data strategy must be in place to quickly feature online catalogues in a way that’s most relevant to the consumer, with accompanying product information and offers.
Step Two: Personalizing the “In-Between”
Once a customer has visited a retailer’s site, retailers must work to deliver personalization in the space between the customer’s online-to-offline experience.
For example, let’s say a customer places an order online to be picked up in a physical store (BOPIS) after visiting the retailer’s site or bookmarking an item to come back to later. Between the consumer’s online visit and their eventual journey to the physical store, retailers have the opportunity to continue driving engagement through personalized email reminders that highlight where they can pick up their purchased product in-store, as well as recommending complimentary products to the items they just purchased. Retailers can also stay top of mind “in-between” channels by sending mobile push notifications to opted-in shoppers via the retailer’s app or loyalty program.
Moving beyond product reminders, retailers have the opportunity to engage with customers through branded content that helps tell the retailer’s story. This can be done through social media as well as email and mobile channels.
Step 3: In-Store Personalization
Once in store, retailers have an opportunity to deliver IRL (in real life) personalized experiences by equipping store associates with the latest information to make everything from fulfillment to new product discovery to the overall in-store experience personalized.
For example, in a BOPIS situation, the in-store fulfillment associates can utilize data to have the customer’s order history on hand, prepared to make personalized upsell recommendations when the customer approaches the pick-up counter. Additionally, the associate can also utilize the customer’s history to highlight new product lines that the customer may be interested in exploring while in-store.
Personalization can also help reduce or optimize in-store inventory by matching the right high-inventory products in any given store to the right customers. Rather than carrying every product a generic group of shoppers could want, the retailer is armed with the proper understanding of who shops there and what product offerings they’ll respond to.
Step 4: Post-Sale Personalization
Once the customer leaves the store with product in-hand, a retailer’s job is not over! To create a holistic personalized unified commerce experience, a retailer must put the tools in place to follow up meaningfully with the customer.
This can be done through a follow-up email or SMS text that thanks the customer for the purchase and prompts them to answer a quick satisfaction survey. As well, any follow-up communication that the customer receives should be fully personalized with new recommendations—this includes any un-opened communication that the customer did not review prior to picking up their product.
For example, with connected data, should a customer open an old email—sent from before the in-store purchase—that email’s recommendations are refreshed based on the updated in-store purchase. As well, when the customer goes back online to the retailer’s site, they should also see updated recommendations and search results based on in-store purchases.
Step 5: Bringing it all Full-Circle
Making the leap from single-, multi- or omnichannel experiences to that of unified commerce requires a strong data strategy to serve as the foundation, connecting all channels and going beyond making the sale. As brands and retailers look to evolve with their customers interests and preferences, they will need to harness the power of unified commerce to launch new and exciting shopping experiences that are highly personalized and customer journeys that are fully orchestrated.
Kibo provides ecommerce technology and order-fulfillment services to online retailers.Favorite