A group of fashion design students in New York is all set to put out a stellar ramp walk show in about 6 hours. They’ve perfected everything – models, costumes, venue, and event promotions. But one small thing is missing - a crimson red with a tinge of burgundy shade lipstick which would go well with the costumes.

Meet Sarah – The Retail Customer of Today

Sarah, an unrelenting student, is still trying her luck, glancing through her mobile while commuting in a subway. She, suddenly, crosses a similar shade lipstick named Shade91 in an online store. But Sarah wants to be sure of the shade – take a closer human look. She locates the physical store in a mall close to her classmate Sam’s house. Then sends out an email to the retail chain notifying Sam would visit the store shortly.

In about 20 minutes, the staff at the store welcomes Sam and says, “We’ve got 150 pieces of Shade91 lipstick, and we can ship it to the event venue in less than 3 hours.” Sam verifies the shade ‘crimson red with a tinge of burgundy’ and swipes the credit card. The ramp walk hits a runaway success. The super happy customer Sarah pushes out a tweet thanking the retail brand for their super-fast response and exceptional customer experience. The tweet snowballs, and in the next few weeks, the retail chain’s sales go up in both online and in the physical stores across all US locations.

In that short 20 minutes, a host of things happened at the backend of the retail chain. The customer center received Sarah’s email, passed it to the sales support team. The support team used analytics to collect customer profiles, persona, and intended purchase. The team also pulled out, in parallel, the inventory stock of Shade91 lipstick from all the nearby stores and the warehouse. Finally, the delivery time was estimated by basing it on the shipping team’s delivery prediction for the day. Before Sam’s arrival, the showroom staff was empowered with all the information to provide exceptional customer experience.

The future of retail would look similar to the story of Sarah. Customer experience is the heartbeat of today’s and tomorrow’s retail. And integrated digital-age technology is driving that experience from behind.

Unified commerce scores where omnichannel doesn’t

Most retailers shifted to omnichannel in the past to be available for customers across multiple sales channels, and it did wonders for a while. But with the explosion of digital technologies such as cloud, big data, connected devices, virtual reality, and the rapid rise of consumer voices in social media, retail’s backend IT systems were unable to keep up with the pace. During the omnichannel transition, in-house integration technologies were deployed to bring standalone systems such as CRM, financial software, point of sales, inventory tracker, e-commerce platforms, and other software tools together. Unfortunately, the do-it-yourself system integration didn't rise to the ever-changing technology landscape and consumer trends. With every addition of software in the backend or product expansion on the front layer, IT teams had to repeat the system integration process. This poorly reflected in the customer experience. Here comes Unified Commerce, an architecture-based approach that seamlessly ties the retail operations across the customer value chain.

Aspire creates future-ready Unified Commerce experiences

Unified commerce is much more than just one digital system to carry out all your retail operations. It is the harmonious co-existence of practices, processes, and products/solutions that, in turn, provides a seamless experience across channels. In that sense, unified commerce should be a part of the company’s DNA rather than just a collaboration between technology, business, and customer-facing teams.

Unified Commerce enables transparency of real-time visibility to inventory, product, and customer information, and delivers seamless unified customer experiences across multiple touchpoints.

Aspire Systems has been helping global retail brands with their unified commerce journeys. We have put them in the driver seat of delivering memorable customer experiences while accelerating their workflows, with centralized visibility and simplified workflows.

Aspire has created a four-step guided approach for retailers to adapt to unified commerce.

Step 1: Enablement

The first step aims at enabling front-end channels and backend systems to function smoothly. The crux is to simplify customer-facing interface or devices and seamlessly connect them with backend systems such as ERP, CRM, POS, and merchandising. It also helps align digital technologies such as Cloud, IoT, and AI with other systems to ensure future-readiness.

Step 2: Data

The next is to consolidate the data into a unified truth, at integrating, unifying, and streamlining the data pool of retailers. A massive chunk of data is scattered within retail organizations of all types and sizes. Slicing and dicing of that data are what that first step entails. The outcome of this step is to provide a unified version of datasets like customer, product, and inventory.

Step 3: Experience

The third step of the journey is to elevate the overall experience. And it’s not just about being proactive about offering customer support or ensuring contextual conversations. The experiences quadrant brings in the ‘anytime, anywhere’ mindset to give customers a unified experience, no matter which channel they choose. It also caters to the expectations of modern customers by reaching them through next-gen technologies, such as AR/VR, Smart Mirrors, voice/ visual-based search to multifold customer experiences.

Step 4: Insight

The insight step is what makes retail a constantly-evolving industry that learns and grows from current realities. It helps retailers uncover valuable customer insights based on browsing behavior, lifestyle preferences, and other such parameters. In parallel, this step facilitates product innovation and feature enhancements by drilling into product feedback and consumer voices.

Built on a framework of agility, scalability, and innovation

The unique aspect of Aspire's Unified Commerce offering is that it is built on a success-proven framework that guides retailers to smoothly shift from any of their current model to unified commerce. The offering is not a one-size-fits-all. The compounding of the software approach is nothing more than an upgraded version of rookie in-house integration of systems prevalent in the omnichannel retail phase. Aspire's unified commerce offering framework follows an architectural-based approach. It gives the flexibility to design a custom-made strategy for each retail customer. Every retail brand is different and has its own set of business challenges. Thus, each retail brand deserves a unique approach to provide hyper-personalized experience to its customers.

Unified commerce helps retailers in many ways. Retailers can automate business processes, , manage inventory better, better insights into customers and more adaptive to changes. To the customers, it promises a seamless experience, elevated brand image, and a high score on brand loyalty.

All the technologies and tools are at the disposal of retailers to tap into unified commerce's advantages. Growth-focused retail brands will unlock unified commerce and excite connected-customers of the digital age with personalized experiences.