We often talk to highly successful retailers who are rightfully proud of the advancements they’ve made in pursuit of omni-channel retail. They also express occasional frustration that those efforts are only as good as their ability to set them up for the next iteration of modern retail: unified commerce. It’s not that they struggle to understand the benefits of managing all consumer touchpoints under a single customer-centric infrastructure. The challenge is getting the IT infrastructure ready for this shift.
When moving all channels into a single management system, the primary challenge is often meeting and overcoming the obstacles that come with channel convergence, such as duplicate and contradictory data, disparate workflows, multiple applications for managing processes and technical teams untrained in new systems. Ultimately, retail winners will cut through the confusion by emphasizing the integration of product workflows and consistent dissemination of product content across sales channels as their first priority.
Customers expect robust product information
In today’s on-demand, endless shelf retail environment, shoppers won’t wait around for a retailer to stock a product they want or settle for a ‘close-enough’ alternative. Retailers can’t risk slow product development or replenishment cycles, poor inventory visibility, or sales channels listing incomplete product information in the name of moving quickly. To create a true unified commerce experience, retailers need to ensure that every channel and every touchpoint feels as if it’s the only one the relationship is built on, while also knowing every other touchpoint will fuel the same response.
To do so, retailers need to ensure that not only do consumers have access to all the same products, branding, fulfillment options, search functions, etc., they also need to have all the same product information available to help them pick out the right items for their specific needs. Retailers pushing for a unified commerce system need to prioritize the development of product content management systems that ensure the same images, product specifications – e.g. color, size, power, material, flavor – are available to a mobile shopper as it would be to an in-store or ecommerce shopper. Without that key information, shoppers may not feel comfortable that they’re ordering what they want and abandon the sale.
The value of automated workflows and collaboration
Modern cloud-based product content management models, such as those available in the PlumSlice product suite, allow stakeholders to collaborate in real time on one platform – no more data silos or shared spreadsheets. Retail and B2B suppliers can ultimately take advantage of new levels of cross-team transparency as they collaborate online to manage purchase orders, quotes, invoices, and everything from dropshipping to virtual merchandising. They can even power endless aisle capabilities and manage a range of processes – from product catalogs, shipments, dropship orders, and invoices – to virtual merchandising supporting an expanded online assortment.
Adding all of these new features doesn’t need to make retail more complicated. In fact, automating most of these processes based on real-time enteprise data, simplifies assortment planning and optimizes product selection. It makes it easy for buyers to manage workflows and approval processes by leveraging data from multiple sources to create, analyze and approve assortment plans and keep the right stock in the right locations.
Unified forecasting drives smarter merchandising
One of the key benefits of integrating all commerce channels is the ability to leverage insights from each channel and customer engagement to create more accurate and valuable product forecasting in real-time. By incorporating systems with machine learning capabilities, retailers can create a 360-degree view of demand trends and predict likely outcomes. When combined with powerful automated product development workflows to limit mistakes and improve time-to-market, unified commerce systems create smarter assortments that are also more capable of meeting consumer needs as they evolve, not in response to them.
Unified commerce is an attainable goal, and those who set strong foundations today will be the masters once everyone else catches up. A key ingredient to success will be getting better products to market faster and reaching more customers with great information across more channels. Unified commerce holds the promise of more efficient processes and better customer outcomes; with next generation product content management, you’ll fulfill that promise.