Omnichannel vs. unified commerce. what you need to know

The digital shelf is like a dance floor, and a crowded one at that. Countless buyers switch every which way, seemingly at will, but sometimes they can be captivated by a certain wave, guided by a certain groove.

There’s also tension, a bit of sweat, a semi-predictable rhythm and the imminent possibility of a massive change at any point (or beat drop). However, if you’re lucky, your organization may find itself in the spotlight.

While determining what buyers want can feel like a delicate dance, some of the expectations of today’s buyers are clear.

There are two different ways to achieve this: multi-channel commerce and unified commerce. But what is the difference between the two? How do you know what’s best for you and your customers?

Learn the basics of what omnichannel commerce and unified commerce are, and get a comparison of omnichannel vs. unified commerce.

What is Omnichannel Commerce?

Omnichannel commerce is the seamless connection of customer touchpoints and channels that continue to expand and intertwine with the goal of creating a compelling, cohesive customer experience. Shoppers can be exposed to omnichannel shopping experiences as they browse or purchase from direct-to-consumer (DTC) websites, in-store or online, as well as on social media.

In other words, omnichannel commerce is when brands or retailers strive to create a unified experience from the consumer’s perspective; it is more brand-centric.

And that’s important for modern buyers. Omnichannel commerce is about how consumers find new products and how they ultimately buy them.

Omnichannel Commerce drives new product discovery

According to Salsify’s 2023 Consumer Research report, shoppers now most often find new products through social media.

Top 5 ways for consumers to find new products

  1. Social media
  2. Shopping apps
  3. Browsing in store
  4. Search engine
  5. Catalogs or brochures

Source: Salsify 2023 Consumer Research Report

Omnichannel Commerce promotes multiple shopping options

Salsify’s research also reports that consumers tend to buy products equally in-store or online, making it imperative that brands and retailers can deliver regardless of where shoppers shop.

Where buyers are most likely to buy

  1. 68% in store
  2. 68% on retail site
  3. 38% in retail app
  4. 35% through drive-up services
  5. 28% on the brand’s own website
  6. 24% via search engine

Source: Salsify’s “2023 Consumer Research“Communication

What is Single Trade?

Unified commerce is the seamless connection of the core customer experience with back-end operations. Customers are channels that drive information to an organization, versus purchasing channels that drive customers.

Their data informs internal aspects of the organization’s operations, such as what products a customer views or places in their cart (and on what platform), what inventory is located where, and more.

In other words, unified commerce (or unified e-commerce) is when brands or retailers strive to create a unified experience from both the consumer and consumer perspective; it is more customer-centric.

What is the difference between Omnichannel and Unified Commerce?

Some of the differences between omnichannel and unified commerce lie in their structure, not necessarily their intent.

Both structures are fueling an increase in shopper spending, up 30%, in fact, according to Adyen’s financial technology platform One Trade Index. (That is, buyers who contact a retailer through more than one channel.)

Omnichannel commerce is more branded

Again, omnichannel commerce is when brands or retailers seek to create a cohesive experience from the consumer’s perspective; it is more brand-centric.

Omnichannel commerce ensures that an organization appears consistently on the digital shelf by:

  • Product information;
  • Contents; and:
  • Experiences.

It’s about consumers finding and interacting with your brand at various points along the purchase journey. However, organizations that do it right have ways to collect data across channels and leverage it further through customer profiles for personalized offers, recommendations and more.

But, even with all this power, omnichannel commerce can leave gaps in intelligence.

For example, after much deliberation, a customer might add a pair of sunglasses to their cart on a single channel like Instagram.

Later, however, when they finally decide to reconsider their purchase by clicking on the text offer they received from the brand, they may not see their coveted shades in their cart on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) site.

Even worse, they might find out that the pair they want is now sold out even though it looked like they were in stock on Instagram, which is why they’re likely to opt out of the sale altogether.

One-stop shopping is more customer-centric

Again, unified commerce is when brands or retailers strive to create a cohesive experience from both the consumer and consumer perspective; it is more customer-centric.

In addition to providing consistent product information, content and experiences on the digital shelf, unified commerce goes further by providing consistent information and capabilities such as:

  • Consumer data;
  • Distribution of supplies;
  • Order management; and:
  • Product planning.

Unified e-commerce won’t let the sunglasses example fail that multi-channel commerce can.

Because unified commerce spans one fully interconnected platform, the shopper will have the same cart (and nearly the same shades) no matter where they choose to interact with the organization and ultimately complete their purchase.

The organization can also have more flexibility and confidence to further delight the consumer by offering a last-minute discount if they buy a second pair or a matching bag.

With informed inventory management, they know they have inventory. And with up-to-date sales information, they know they can afford a discount.

What if you don’t offer omnichannel commerce or unified commerce?

If you decide to abandon omnichannel commerce or unified commerce capabilities, you’ll lose critical operational insights, data to inform future growth, and of course, customers.

Some 59% of US consumers would choose to shop elsewhere if online shopping was not offered in-store pickup (BOPIS), as well as 49% if pickup was not offered and 41% if same-day delivery was not offered. t suggested by IDC according to the 2021 consumer survey.

In addition, higher prices have affected how consumers shop around the world. According to Salsify’s 2023 Shopper Survey, its interactive, country-by-country consumer research, shoppers in the US (47%), France (48%), UK (49%), Germany (49%), and Australia ( 52%) prioritize product quality and research.

That means if your presence on the digital shelf is low (or you just look bad due to a lack of correct or updated product information), you might as well forget about becoming a serious competitor. Consumers will soon forget you too.

Benefits of providing a unified customer shopping experience

Feeling forgotten (or about to forget yourself) but not sure what you can do to help your organization succeed on both the front end and the back end? These are just some of the benefits of providing seamless customer commerce experiences.

Single trade creates front-end consolidation

Like omnichannel commerce, unified commerce helps create the cohesion up front that modern consumers appreciate (nay, demand).

Not only does product information and content look their best at every touchpoint, but consumers can also be confident that the specific products they want are actually available.

And if the consumer journey is long, complex and drawn out (as many are), all of their data will be intelligently applied at every touchpoint until they finally decide to buy.

Single trade promotes backward harmony

As discussed, single trade includes another layer of consistency beyond comprehensive trade processes.

A consumer’s unique preferences will be available on the organization’s digital shelf for better-informed offers and personalization efforts.

Friction will be reduced as the organization can minimize inventory and effectively manage inventory using cross-channel insights.

Furthermore, an organization can effectively plan for the future with a more complete understanding of what, where and how consumers are engaged and what sales are occurring, when, where and how.

Simplify and unify. follow buyers around the world

Astute buyers will notice your two left feet. you need to keep up with their changing requirements on a global scale. Getting into the groove of what your buyers are looking for will require some quick decisions.

You may not have to turn to one-stop-shop or one-stop e-commerce right away. But if nothing else, omnichannel commerce is the foundation for compelling digital shelf performance. You don’t have to make all the right moves all the time, but through trial and error you can coordinate a great strategy that turns heads.

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