Unified commerce vs. omnichannel for retailers

Marc Allsop
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Consumers like to explore every retail channel and touchpoint; 80% of shoppers reported using at least three retail channels in the last six months. So, it's important that the experience you offer is consistent across channels.

By creating a smooth customer experience, shoppers know what to expect from your brand, can find what they're looking for, and can easily cross between channels - ultimately helping to boost sales and engagement. 

But streamlining your retail channels isn't just about being customer-facing. To be cutting-edge, your retailer needs to connect the technology you use in your back-end systems too, such as the technology you use to collect and manage your POS data.

This will help you to streamline processes and achieve a single source of truth for your data. Additionally, it can help your retailer scale your technology, especially across a large customer base or multiple locations.

There are two approaches that are often referred to that help retailers achieve this: ‘omnichannel’ and ‘unified commerce’. In this blog, we’ll explain the difference – and why they’re useful to know for retailers.

Read our eBook 'What is POS data? The complete beginner's guide' and discover  the opportunities POS data has to offer retailers. 

Omnichannel vs. unified commerce

Omnichannel has long been important for retailers who want to reach and engage their customers across multiple channels. Meanwhile, unified commerce has emerged as a new consideration for retailers who want to connect their multiple retail channels using one platform. 

Let’s explore the definitions.

What is omnichannel in retail?

An omnichannel retail strategy is the effort to provide consistent customer-facing channels. Studies show that retailer customers enjoy a frictionless experience. In fact, omnichannel strategies drive a 80% higher rate of incremental store visits.

Shoppers can easily browse for items online, find items in-store, compare prices using a mobile app, and receive personalized content and offers based on their previous purchase history. No matter what retail channel they interact with your retailer on, you'll only recommend relevant products or offers. 

What is unified commerce?

Unified commerce is the method of connecting your back-end systems with your customer-facing channels using a single platform. 

It can support your retailer with creating a truly omnichannel retail journey. For example, you might connect the software that collects your POS data with your customer-facing offers. You could use POS data to inform your marketing strategy, like sending relevant marketing communications to a certain customer base using their POS data. 

The key difference between omnichannel and unified commerce

Omnichannel doesn't take into account the processes of your back-end systems. Many retailers might use multiple platforms or tools to provide an omnichannel experience for their customers.

For example, you might manage your retail analytics using a retail analytics solution. However, you might manage your coupon marketing on a separate software solution. And your communications and other marketing on another.

To overcome this, one option is to integrate all of your systems, functions, and channels into a single platform. Shopper data is processed using a single tool, rather than multiple. This simplifies data management for retailers.

The right retail marketing software can help you achieve this. It can consolidate your customer data, such as POS data, into one system. Then, it can be used to power important marketing processes. For example, your coupon marketing or retail analytics. Learn more about how retail marketing software can help you harness the power of POS data in our ebook, read it here.

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