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Is Unified Commerce the Future of Selling?

February 11, 2022 | Oro Team

A version of this article has been published in Multichannel Merchant, contributed by Yoav Kutner, CEO and Co-Founder of Oro Inc.

Gartner reports that over 30 integrated applications will account for the average eCommerce experience by 2023. 

ECommerce tech vendors and strategists have introduced several approaches to ensure all these integrations work properly. They include multichannel, headless, omnichannel, composable, and modular eCommerce. 

Now, a new approach — unified commerce — is taking center stage as brands double down on technologies that help them improve customer experience and sales efficiency. 

But is unified commerce worth considering, or is it just another buzzword? 

Below, we define unified commerce and look at the strategic goals and technologies behind it to help you determine if it’s right for your business.

What is unified commerce?

Simply put, unified commerce promises to create a seamless customer experience on the front-end while connecting it with your back-end systems to centralize operations. This definition sounds similar to multichannel, omnichannel, and headless eCommerce. So, what sets unified commerce apart from other approaches? 

One way to look at unified commerce is through the evolution of omnichannel commerce. In an omnichannel framework, companies focus on providing a frictionless customer experience regardless of where they are shopping: online from their mobile device, computer, or a brick-and-mortar store. This approach relies on integrated back-end functionality, using the headless or composable infrastructure. 

Unified commerce supports these omnichannel experiences, but it’s more than just that. Unified commerce aims to consolidate all your channels, payment systems, products, and customer interactions into a single cohesive system. When every data source and technology are brought together in one place, brands can deliver an elevated customer experience across any number of touchpoints.

Under the Hood

While this approach sounds good, the devil is always in the details. The critical thing to keep in mind is that the unified commerce strategy and unified commerce technologies supporting this strategy are two very different things.

It’s easy to see the strategic appeal of the approach that unifies all aspects of the ecosystem. But to support this objective, solution providers have devised technologies that, in practice, often hold eCommerce companies back.

Let’s take all-in-one platforms as an example. Vendors, such as Salesforce or Oracle, can offer a broad set of solutions as a monolithic product. But such an approach can lock users into one product ecosystem. This contradicts the strategic goal of unified commerce, making it hard for brands to adapt to changing needs in an agile manner.   

On the other end of the spectrum are unified commerce solutions created by acquiring other products or bundling third-party microservices. While this approach can serve the goals of unified commerce, it does so in a resource-intensive way, aggravating the challenges unified commerce was supposed to resolve. 

A Better Way

So is there a better approach to unified commerce? One that helps achieve the strategic goals while also offering flexible technology needed to support them? 

The answer is yes, and it lies in modular platforms. 

Modular technology offers the same flexibility and tools used in the microservices approach. Yet, it’s easier to integrate thanks to different modular add-ons that can be turned on and off depending on your current needs. Essentially, the modular approach allows you to embrace unified commerce as a strategy and let your strategic goals define technological investments. 

Unifying customer experience

Both B2B and B2C buyers appreciate multiple touchpoints to connect with sellers. That means unified commerce will define the future of online selling — but as a strategic path, not a monolithic technological framework. 

So the takeaway here is not to rush to invest in unified commerce until you’re clear about your strategic goals. The current and anticipated business needs should guide your tech decisions, not the other way round.

Once you have the strategy is in place, it’s up to you to build a solution that scales as your business grows and evolves, empowering you to innovate a unified customer experience.

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