3 unified commerce capabilities that require store team support

Dec 07, 2023

Key takeaways

Uniting online and in-store systems can raise sales, reduce inventory and lead to multi-channel customers

To get full value from these capabilities, retailers must simplify the process and training for staff

Retailers should incorporate unified commerce systems that allow interoperability between systems

Business applications Retail Microsoft

Unified commerce capabilities such as “buy online, ship from store”; “buy online, pick up in store”; and “buy online, return in store” require support from the store team. These capabilities involve specialized training and are sometimes difficult to execute due to limitations in systems interoperability. The cost to maintain these processes and for training can accumulate quickly and become burdensome when combined with high turnover. Complexity results in poorly executed processes that damage your retail brand and result in lower customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Consider these costs when making decisions about how to deploy these capabilities. Leaning into unified commerce designs that drive interoperability will streamline these processes and make them easier to learn. This article discusses three different unified commerce capabilities that require support from a store team as well as the advantages of adopting them. 

Capability 1: Buy online, ship from store

Buy online, ship from store is a back-office function that is largely invisible to customers. In fact, many retailers go to great lengths to obscure the fact that a shipment came from a store. Shipping an order in plain packaging that looks like it came from a generic warehouse is a missed opportunity.

Multi-channel customers are more valuable and loyal. Why not advertise that their orders were hand-packed with care by your local store team? Retailers should encourage online customers to visit stores and interact with store teams. Not only will online customers experience shorter shipping times, but they may also discover a new local store that they may not have considered before.

Capability 2: Buy online, return in store

Buy online, return in store is another opportunity for the store team to interact with online customers who have already completed a purchase. Why? Because these customers—for whatever reason—are returning items that they purchased online to a physical store.

However, to provide these customers with a low-friction returns experience, retailers must have interoperability between online and in-store front-end systems for payments, taxes, pricing and promotions. Otherwise, the returns process can become cumbersome and spawn exception processes that require additional training. This complexity can lead to errors and problems that can defeat the purpose of having this capability or having the customer in the store in the first place. Unified commerce can reduce this complexity.

Capability 3: Buy online, pickup from store

Buy online, pickup from store is the most complicated capability to implement out of all the three capabilities mentioned in this article. That’s because the store team has to execute within a specific timeframe, inventory availability information must be accurate and the process requires interaction from the customer.

Without interoperability between online and in-store systems for inventory, there is a time lag that can lead to either cancelled orders or less inventory being made available for sale to protect against cancelled orders. In addition, training associates on order handling, customer notification and fulfillment processes cannot be avoided. Thus, these processes should be rock solid and as easy to execute as possible. Too many exceptions and holes in the process that require special procedures and training will doom the capability to fail.  

What happens next?

Understanding the impact of unified commerce capabilities on a store team is very important. Making the processes easy to execute and learn will improve adoption and reduce the frequency of errors. Investing in unified commerce capabilities with true interoperability can make these processes easier to deploy and maintain.

Start preparing a business case for unified commerce using the tools below. Connect with our team if you would like assistance with preparing a business case for your project.

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