Voice of the Industry

Unified commerce: It starts with your customers

Wednesday 26 February 2020 09:13 CET | Author Simona Negru | Voice of the industry

Lee Tango, CyberSource, explains why the first thing that stands out about retailers who are succeeding at unified commerce is their customer-centric focus

The first reference to the concept of omnichannel retail is attributed to the then CEO of Macy's, Terry Lundgren, who saw integrating stores with online sales as a strategy for driving growth. Fast forward a decade and almost every retailer says omnichannel fulfilment is a top priority. But many are struggling to deliver on their omnichannel strategy. That's not for want of trying; rather, it tends to be because they're approaching it in terms of systems and processes, instead of thinking about it from the customer's point of view.

And let's face it – whether we call our strategy omnichannel, integrated or unified commerce, consumers don't really care about that, nor do they think consciously about the channel they're buying through. As Ray Hartjen, Marketing Director at RetailNext, puts it: ‘Consumers simply don't think in terms of channels…it's all just “shopping”’. What they do care about, however, is having a great shopping experience with you.

What's the secret to getting unified commerce right?

The first thing that stands out about retailers who are succeeding at unified commerce is their customer-centric focus. It doesn't matter whether they started out online or as bricks-and-mortar retailers that have added web and mobile channels. They know that in order to meet the needs of today's consumers, they have to create experiences their customers will love. To do that, they build relationships with their customers that span all their channels.

Restaurant chain PizzaExpress understands this. The PizzaExpress app allows diners to book a table, browse the menu, and pay the bill at their table without calling on a waiter. Through the app, the chain gets to know its customers and builds relationships with them – by offering birthday gifts, for example –, making it more likely they'll dine again at PizzaExpress.

The concept of gifts and other tailored perks that work across channels is critical to making customers feel valued. Some retailers even add a gamification element: for example, a sportswear retailer might reward customers who meet in-app training goals with an invitation to exclusive in-store events.

Another common trait among successful unified commerce retailers is an understanding that doing unified commerce well isn't easy to do alone. On the other hand, working with a network of trusted partners – whose platforms integrate with each other – provides a retailer with the right foundations for creating customer experiences that inspire delight and loyalty.

Where does payment fit in?

Payment is a vital piece of the unified commerce puzzle. If the payment element is overlooked or simply doesn't work well, it can cause friction and undermine the rest of your unified commerce efforts.

Imagine, for example, taking up a retailer's personalised kitchen design service. You're ushered into a special suite at the store, where a consultant plans your dream kitchen with you, while you sip delicious coffee. But when it's time to pay, there's no POS terminal in the design suite. Therefore, you find yourself back in the store, queueing at the checkout with everyone else. Because the payment experience doesn't match up to the rest of the experience, the spell is broken. The risk for the retailer, of course, is that you might be disappointed enough to change your mind and abandon your purchase.

Retailers who are successfully practicing unified commerce know that the payment experience must meet the same standard as the rest of the customer experience. That means building payment in from the start and making it seamless. It also means bringing the right payment partner into your network – one who understands the challenges of delivering on a unified commerce strategy and has the solutions to help.

In unified commerce, gaining a complete picture of your customer across channels is critical; and how they pay is a major part of that picture. A customer may use different payment methods across different channels, and they may even use different options – more than one card, for example – within a single channel.

This is where token management comes into play. Tokenization was originally a way to replace payment data with a unique identifier (token) in order to protect sensitive cardholder data and strengthen customer trust and loyalty.

Today, tokenization supports unified commerce by providing a 360-degree view of a customer's buying behaviour across channels and allowing the retailer to manage all those interactions through a single token. In the click-and-collect scenario, for example, tokenization allows a retailer to authenticate a customer when they pick up their goods instore via the card they used to make the purchase online, ensuring a smooth experience.

The retailer can also allow a customer to make subsequent purchases without needing to re-enter their payment details. This removes another potential source of friction and keeps revenues flowing, even when card-on-file information expires. In addition, retailers can use tokens to provide personalised promotions or run customer loyalty programmes without exposing sensitive data.

Customer, customer, customer

For retailers that want to embrace unified commerce, the starting point is a commitment to putting customers first. Working with the right network of partners, whose platforms and solutions integrate into a seamless whole, will help you build a foundation on which to create the experiences and relationships that will keep your customers coming back – and your business flourishing.

This editorial was first published in our Cross-Border Payments and Commerce Report 2019 – 2020, which provides a comprehensive overview the major trends driving growth in cross-border payments, cross-border commerce, and marketplaces.

About Lee Tango

An experienced payments and fintech practitioner, Lee has built up extensive knowledge during his 20 years in the industry. He works with global retailers, hospitality providers, and transit operators to help them achieve their digital transformation ambitions.



About CyberSource

CyberSource is a global, modular payment management platform built on secure Visa infrastructure with the benefits and insights of a vast USD 479 billion global processing network. It helps businesses operate with agility and reach their digital commerce goals by enhancing the customer experience, growing revenues, and mitigating risk.


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Keywords: Lee Tango, CyberSource, omnichannel, retail, merchants, commerce, bricks-and-mortar, loyalty, payments, tokenization, click-and-collect, online purchase
Categories: Payments & Commerce | Online Payments
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce