Unified Commerce is Here. Is Your Technology Ready?

June 2017—

For the tech-savvy customer who decides your store is their choice destination, a unified profile allows them to continue the experience in-store without missing a beat.

Picture what is was like for your customers to shop for furniture 10 years ago—even just five years ago. For business owners and consumers alike, it would have been impossible to predict just how drastically the retail market would change in that time. While it may have been hard to imagine, the reality of today’s customer purchasing experience is here and the influx of change is anticipated to continue at a staggering pace.

Perhaps the most significant evolution is the role of technology in the retail shopping experience. We’ve reached a point in home furnishings retail that many didn’t think possible: The purchase of a big-ticket item online without ever setting foot in a showroom.

While online transactions in the furniture industry may never represent a majority of sales, research shows that anywhere between 85 percent to 90 percent of retail shopping experiences begin online. Strategy has become about capturing that customer when they’re searching for furniture online at the beginning of their shopping experience.

Your store’s website is your first and sometimes only attempt to sell your brand and capture a potential lead. A company’s website needs to wow Google even before the customer lays eyes on it.

You already know how important it is to attain high Google search rankings, yet Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is competitive.

Your site needs to rank for both local, product, and branded search results. The platform you run your website on, whether e-commerce or informational, should have elements that support SEO performance. This includes mobile responsive design, meta data tools, and the ability to build enriching content.

But that’s only half the battle. Once the customer finds you online, it’s time to earn their business. Your customer profiles, product inventory, and shopping carts should reside in one database that follows the customer across channels. The sharing of information between in-store and online helps make the shopping experience seamless. In particular, shared inventory ensures that availability, stock levels, delivery dates, and pricing are consistent from your website to your showrooms. That brings peace of mind to your operations. Even more important, that consistency builds much-needed brand trust between you and your customers.

Your retail technology should also be designed to identify your customer wherever they are shopping your brand. Present a value proposition that entices the customer to share their identifying information and build a profile that is accessible both in-store and online.

For the customer who decides you are their choice destination, a unified profile allows them to continue the experience in-store without missing a beat.

In today’s competitive market, you know how difficult it can be for your home furnishings store to beat out the competition and earn a customer’s hard-earned business. The ability to build shopping carts online and view them in-store at a self-service kiosk continues that purchasing experience right where the customer left off.

The role of mobile technology in-store is increasing in importance. Customers have high expectations and want your service in-store to be as easy as it is when they were relaxing at home. Using mobile devices that can access the same customer, merchandise, and cart information enables that to happen.

Additionally, if your sales representative can glean insight into what the customer was browsing or even purchased in the past, they can tailor the sales process for a more personal experience. Everyone knows the more personal the experience, the more likely you are to close the sale, build a relationship, and generate repeat business.

But it’s not all about the in-store experience. If your customer is hesitant to close the sale and needs to sleep on her decision, the sofa or dining room table she selected in-store should be accessible to her at home.

That enables the customer to complete the sale online on their terms, where and when they’re ready, reducing conversion friction.

Now comes the hard question: Is this the experience your customer has with your brand right now? If not, relax. You’re not alone. Only 18 percent of retailers claim they deliver a unified commerce experience today. But don’t get too comfortable being part of the majority. Remember, the idea is to set yourself apart from the competition. Unified commerce is the future of retail. It’s coming whether you’re ready or not. Retailers who implement this strategy ahead of the curve position their brand to have a true competitive advantage.

About the Author

Caitlin Jascewsky
Caitlin Jascewsky has been the communications and digital specialist for STORIS Leading Retail Software Solutions for more than three years. She can be reached at ccj@storis.com