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As organizations attempt to keep pace with rising consumer expectations, their commerce ecosystem and ancillary systems are becoming increasingly complex. There are more purchasing channels, more systems and more data to manage than ever before. Because of this, many of our clients are turning to a unified commerce strategy to reduce this complexity, streamline their customer experience (CX), gain operational efficiency and drive growth.

However, the journey to a unified commerce strategy isn't without challenges. From strategy to execution, we've helped many leaders navigate the stumbling blocks that can occur related to people, processes and technologies. Obstacles like legacy systems, costly third-party platforms, competing departmental priorities, change management and a lack of a mature data strategy can slow or completely halt progress. 

While these challenges may be unavoidable, there are ways to overcome them faster. Based on our experience helping clients across industries, we've identified these unified commerce best practices to help you ensure a smooth transition and make the right decisions faster. 

Best Practice #1: Develop a clear vision of the customer journey. 

Set your current commerce limitations aside. In an ideal world, how do you want customers to engage with your organization? From beginning to end, what do these experiences look like? 

Customer journey mapping can help you develop a clear CX vision and will inform your unified commerce strategy. We recommend starting this exercise by identifying your goals. These might include increasing online cart size, trip frequency, basket margins and inventory visibility, integrating loyalty platforms and creating personalized experiences.

Whatever your specific goals may be, make sure you identify them early on and let them guide your vision and roadmap.   

Best Practice #2: Know your environment.

You can't unify your environment if you don't know what's in it and how everything fits together. We recommend conducting an audit of your technologies before implementing anything new. You'll want to answer questions like: 

  • Am I dependent on a vendor's product roadmap? If so, is it detrimental to my business?
  • Are my existing technologies expensive to maintain and difficult to integrate?
  • What systems are on-premises versus in the cloud?
  • Which systems have the most dependencies?
  • What does the flow of data look like through my systems?
  • Am I paying for unused or underutilized applications?
  • Are there additional applications that I need?

This information will allow you to streamline, simplify and rationalize your existing tools so you have a clear picture of your architecture and systems. It will also help you prioritize your unified commerce roadmap, set realistic timelines and understand the true cost of your transformation. 

For example, you might find that your legacy systems are too costly to retire or too deeply intertwined with your infrastructure to replace. We've helped many clients identify alternative solutions that allow them to continue using their legacy systems while extracting the data they need to achieve a more unified commerce stack. Knowing this information upfront allows leaders to avoid surprises, create budgets and ensure they have the right IT resources for the job.

Best Practice #3: Solidify your data strategy. 

The most foundational element of your unified commerce strategy is your approach to data.  

Many times, when we talk with clients who are ready to proceed with a unified commerce strategy, they've already missed an important step: developing a well-defined data governance strategy.

Data governance and data hygiene are prerequisites for establishing a unified commerce strategy. Implementing a holistic data governance strategy ensures your organization is operating with clean, high-quality data necessary for unifying systems, processes and technologies. Do not postpone or ignore this work. It will only complicate matters later by making it harder to pinpoint data sources. You also run the risk of duplicating data points which can distort insights and become difficult to sort out later.

Ensuring your data is accurate and consistent before embarking on a unified commerce strategy is key to extracting valuable insights faster and preventing future headaches. 

Best Practice #4: Consider the impact on the employee experience. 

Your people are at the core of every digital transformation — including the unification of your commerce strategy. Their support and engagement are critical for maintaining momentum, enriching the customer experience and successfully achieving your strategy. 

Talk to your employees about their needs and how new systems may change processes, roles and responsibilities. Understand their perspective on where updates are most needed and allow ample time for technology adoption and proficiency. This is also a good opportunity to gather feedback that could potentially influence the prioritization of your unified commerce roadmap. 

By taking these steps, you can develop a robust change management strategy that addresses the impact of unified commerce on the employee experience (EX) and enables you to balance both EX and CX.

Best Practice #5: Foster organizational alignment. 

Unified commerce touches many teams within an organization. Creating alignment across these stakeholders will accelerate progress, maximize ROI and ensure long-term success. 

Start by bringing together marketing, product, operations, IT, ecommerce and customer service stakeholders to identify their specific goals and objectives. Understanding these goals will allow you to build a strategy that keeps everyone engaged and delivers the most value. 

This group of stakeholders must work together to build alignment, prioritize the unified commerce roadmap and identify quick wins that will immediately impact the business. These insights can also be used to shape a phased implementation approach, with each stakeholder having complete visibility into what's coming next. 

Clients who successfully achieve unified commerce are intentional about building organizational alignment and creating a shared vision that the entire organization can strive for. 

Getting started

There are many reasons to pursue a unified commerce strategy, from improved customer retention and loyalty to increased operational intelligence and efficiency. All of which have been shown to generate up to 10 percent higher growth projections. 

It's also important to understand that unified commerce strategies can be applied to organizations across industries. From retail and entertainment to healthcare and public sector agencies, a unified commerce strategy can help improve and streamline experiences for customers, patients, constituents and fans.

Having trouble getting started? A successful unified commerce strategy requires cross-functional alignment, deep expertise across technology domains, and insight into your customer and employees' needs and expectations. We've helped many clients build and execute unified commerce strategies while applying these best practices. We can help your organization too. 

Take the first step. Ask our experts how to get started with customer journey mapping or watch our WWT Experts event to learn more about creating a unified commerce strategy.