Is Unified Commerce Still State-Of-The-Art?
The Single Source of Truth matters
Regarding Digital Transformation in Retail, retailers are often confronted with the terms omnichannel, unified, seamless, headless, or composable commerce. Is it all a question of strategy? How can the concepts be combined? This article should provide clarity.
Modern retail is based on the merging of all channels. Today, customers freely and flexibly combine their channels according to their current requirements and usage situation. The online store, social media, the store network, and more - all touchpoints should be seamlessly connected to provide customers with a homogeneous Customer Experience.
In addition, there are various service forms such as the well-known Click and Collect, Buy Online, Ship from Store (BOSS), Reserve Online, Pickup in Store (ROPIS), and others. This is where the virtuoso combination of all channels is needed.
The Omnichannel principle stands for the smooth handling of all these processes. The term describes the integration of all physical and digital channels, i.e., offline and online. The systems behind the channels are constantly in contact with each other, exchanging data, but each system still has its own database.
Unified Commerce the Modern Trend?
Unified Commerce is often mentioned when it comes to further development of Omnichannel. The Unified Commerce strategy focuses on the customer by coordinating all channels around the customer based on a single platform – to increase Customer Satisfaction. All data on customers and their orders are stored in a central Backend system and available in all channels, both for employees in the retail company and customers at any time and anywhere. This makes the platform a so-called "Single Source of Truth".
Omnichannel and Unified Commerce strategies aim to map retail processes across all channels without the customer noticing any of the individual process steps. A Single Source of Truth - i.e., a system that coordinates all processes across all channels - enables the seamless handling of retail processes. In this context, there is often talk of "Seamless Commerce".
Unified Data in the IT Architecture
However, Unified Commerce requires all systems in the IT architecture to be adapted. This is because a Unified Commerce platform only functions as a Single Source of Truth when its components can access the central database, the "Unified Data", via interfaces.
Two essential terms in this context are:
- Headless Commerce: This refers to an E-Commerce architecture in which the Frontend, i.e., the user interface, is separated from the Backend, i.e., the business process logic and data management. To enable the Backend to communicate information to the Frontend, so-called APIs form the interfaces between the Frontend and the Backend. This way, several systems can access the same data in the Backend.
- Composable Commerce: This term describes an architecture in which a software division's best or preferred applications can be combined to form an individual, modular platform.
Adapting all systems to a "unified" platform is time-consuming and costly. How can retail companies nevertheless follow the philosophy of this approach and thereby constantly improve their Customer Satisfaction?
Order Management System as Single Source of Truth
The Unified Commerce approach can already be anchored in the Omnichannel landscape and pursued by an Order Management System (OMS). After all, to fulfill its task of Order Management, an OMS must be able to integrate all channels in an Omnichannel strategy seamlessly. It thus functions as a Single Source of Truth.
The OMS manages and controls the data flows from the various data sources. All interacting systems can query the status of orders in the OMS and transfer the corresponding data to the OMS when changes are made. Even checkout systems can access the central database.
The clear advantage of this approach is that it is not necessary to convert all existing and grown systems to benefit from a simplified and more efficient IT architecture and provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience.
What Contribution Can Arvato Systems Make?
One example of such an Order Management System is aroma® from Arvato Systems. It links traditional store processes with E-commerce and modern retail processes, thus ensuring optimal Customer Service across all touchpoints. As a Single Source of Truth, aroma thus already forms the basis for Unified Commerce. Thanks to the modular structure of the OMS, various omnichannel services can also be used in a "composable" manner.
The Shopping Cart Service from aroma provides the Backend for the shopping cart, the wishlist, and the checkout of an E-Shop. Independently of this, the front end of the E-Shop can constantly be updated by the retailer. This technical separation simplifies the frontend and allows retailers to focus more on their Customer Experience. With this modular functionality, the Order Management System relies on the headless principle and thus concentrates even more on customer satisfaction, keeping with the Unified Commerce philosophy.