Seamless integration: Transforming customer experience with unified commerce

With a unified commerce strategy, merchants can transcend omnichannel limitations, resulting in personalized customer journeys, optimized order fulfillment, and flexible payment and delivery options.
Deidre Olsen
July 2, 2024

When you sit in a theatre in front of a live symphony, you can witness how each instrument plays a role in creating a singular musical experience. The orchestra blends the sounds of the cello, violin, flute, trumpet, harp, and other instruments harmoniously. While each instrument has its own unique timbre, magic happens when they are performed in unison with others.

If you showed up for the event and only saw one musician on stage, you’d probably want your money back. You don’t want a single aspect of the experience; you want the entire performance. This same energy carries over into online shopping, with customers expecting a seamless experience across channels.

That’s why unified commerce, which brings all sales channels, processes, and data under one roof, is essential. This means connecting every aspect of your business, ensuring you have a complete, real-time overview. On one platform, merchants can find all information about customer interactions, products, services, management systems, and more.

In the past, merchants relied on monolithic systems and solutions. Nowadays, merchants are turning towards composable architecture that provides them with full flexibility and customization, enhancing their capacity to extend and scale as they see fit.

If you’re the conductor of the symphony, this would mean being able to swap in and trade out different instruments, depending on the needs of the orchestra. If it were an all-in-one, you’d never onboard or offboard talent; you’d simply make the best use of what you already have.

As music preferences evolve, audiences might crave a more modern symphony experience. This could necessitate hiring talent that plays a niche instrument and retiring another. If you cannot refresh your music catalog, audiences might grow weary and seek an exciting experience elsewhere.

Merchants need to keep a finger on the pulse of customer preferences and habits. As these change over time, they require a composable technology stack that allows them to routinely update and adjust their practices. This helps merchants build the roadmap towards a unified commerce strategy, which is imperative for success.

From omnichannel to unified: Integrating all systems into a single overview

In the past, an omnichannel approach to commerce enabled merchants to connect all front-end aspects of their businesses. This allowed them to deliver a seamless customer experience across various channels, including websites, social media, e-commerce platforms, physical stores, customer support, email marketing, and more.

However, what was missing from the equation were the back-end systems. These include standalone systems for managing everything from content, orders, and customer relationships to logistics, supply chains, security, data analytics, business intelligence, and payment processing.

In contrast to the omnichannel approach, unified commerce integrates all front-end and back-end systems onto a single platform. As a result, merchants have a comprehensive overview of every data point available, whether it’s payments, customers, inventory, orders, customer support, or sales.

An omnichannel approach to the symphony would mean having every section of the orchestra play from the same sheet music. There would be little interaction and coordination between the different instruments. While each musician would contribute to the performance, they would independently manage themselves.

By contrast, a unified approach would see every section working together. The violin would begin playing, followed by the cello. The harp would wait for the perfect moment to chime in. Some instruments would have solos, while others would create a cascading effect. Rather than a wall of sound, the orchestra would synchronize perfectly.

This is the beauty of unified commerce. It allows the conductor to dynamically adjust and update the symphony to align with changing musical preferences. Additionally, it enables the creation of a fully immersive experience, integrating every crucial part of the orchestra.

A unified commerce platform enhances customer experiences

Let's say you are a symphony enthusiast. You check the availability of a limited edition vinyl record on a theatre website, which says it is in stock and that there’s plenty of it. You figure you’ll pick up the physical copy in person later that day when you stop by for a show. But when you arrive, you are shocked to find that they are all sold out. You’re furious because, had you known, you would’ve quickly bought it online.

There’s a disconnect between the physical store and the e-commerce website. For one of the biggest fans, this is a major disappointment in the customer experience. It has you questioning if you want to keep coming back. Maybe you’ll try another theatre, where you won’t face such a negative outcome.

This scenario demonstrates the importance of unified commerce, which ensures front-end and back-end systems are integrated into a single platform. If this theatre had moved past an omnichannel approach, updated, real-time information would have been digitally relayed to the customer. Simply put, there’s no need to let down your most loyal customers.

No matter what kind of product or service a merchant provides, customers expect a seamless experience across channels. This means that the entire journey is unified regardless of touchpoints as they browse, transact, acquire, and consume. 

With a unified commerce strategy, merchants can personalize the customer journey, enabling people to be presented with the most meaningful products and services. Drawing upon specific customer behaviors, content, and SKUs across channels, customers can be offered personalized search, browse, filter, and recommendation options when shopping online. This makes it easier for customers to find exactly what they want. 

From discovery to checkout: The benefits of a unified commerce strategy 

In addition to the process of discovery and recommendation, the cart and checkout experience can be unified. According to Google Cloud, while 91% of retailers provide a unified cart across devices, only 6% offer unified cart access across all channels. 

Merchants with a unified commerce strategy gain insights into shopping carts, online wishlists, and digital shopping journeys. By pairing this with accessible and flexible payment options, both during and after the sale, customers are guided through the most critical pain points. Additionally, merchants can leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimize order orchestration, manage inventory allocation, and reroute fulfillment processes.

Unified commerce can take on several forms in practice. This includes buying products online and picking them up in-store, redeeming promotional codes in-store, and shopping in a store while having products delivered to one's home or a nearby location. Customers can also view inventory availability online before visiting in person.

This approach to commerce also facilitates easy returns, regardless of whether the products were purchased online or in-store, and offers multiple payment options such as credit and debit cards, PayPal, Klarna, and more. While 75% of merchants provide several different fulfillment options, only 18% allow order modifications post-purchase. Additionally, just 6% permit customers to change their fulfillment option from “buy online, pickup in-store” to direct shipment.

Merchants championing unified commerce offer clear, transparent information to customers regarding how and when products and services will be delivered. They also enable customers to choose from several different delivery and pick-up options, sharing updates along the way. As a result, customers can track the progress of their shipments and stay fully informed.

Finally, when it comes to customer support, 85% of retailers have a live chat, with just 18% offering assistance via text or social media. Merchants with a unified commerce strategy take a personalized approach to connecting with customers. With personalized, authentic interactions across the customer journey, merchants can help with whatever people need without being overbearing.

For the modern consumer, the ability to connect with a merchant through phone, text, social media, live agents, websites, and mobile apps is mission-critical. This allows merchants to meet customers where they are. The wide variety of available options is not only important but also the ability to move across them. While a chatbot can help with simpler requests, it can also connect customers with a live agent to solve more complex issues. 

With so much personalization across the customer experience, no one has to miss out on a limited-edition vinyl record. Instead, they can continuously find new ways to be delighted and offered products and services that speak to their specific, niche interests.

Merchants championing unified commerce can outperform their competitors by up to six times, according to Google Cloud. Additionally, they can enjoy three to six times higher annual revenue growth than their counterparts. While the majority of retailers have started the process of unifying the customer experience across channels, only 15 out of 124 have developed a comprehensive strategy.

Overall, a comprehensive, unified commerce strategy offers several advantages. It increases purchase sizes, reduces operating costs, preserves margins in the last mile, boosts conversion rates, attracts new customers, and raises customer loyalty. Additionally, it fosters greater reliability in supply chain operations, enhances upselling and cross-selling opportunities, and reduces lost sales.

Firmhouse empowers merchants to adopt unified commerce strategies

At Firmhouse, we are shifting commerce for good. Our recurring commerce platform offers powerful integrations and APIs that easily connect with merchants' existing software. Designed for B2C and local European payment methods (including SEPA), our technology stack supports every recurring commerce model.

Whether you offer durables or consumables, our unified checkout and payment process blends rental products, one-time purchases, and subscriptions. As a headless, composable platform, Firmhouse seamlessly integrates with e-commerce systems, allowing merchants to tailor the complete checkout experience to their needs.

Our professional services team provides personalized support for complex migrations and integrations. With capabilities like flexible billing, localized payments, and fraud prevention, Firmhouse helps merchants enhance customer experiences and drive sustainable growth.

Ready to switch from an omnichannel approach to a unified commerce strategy? Book a demo today.

Receive updates
Receive our latest product updates and blog posts in your inbox. No spam, just the latest about the Firmhouse platform.
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.