Be honest: your customers’ expectations are way ahead of your omnichannel capabilities.

More and more customers now expect to research, browse, try, compare, purchase and (many times) return merchandise at any time or place, using whatever payment method they wish, via whichever channel is most convenient for them, with whatever tech device is closest to them at the moment. Additionally, many do not expect to pay for traditional services like shipping, restocking, etc. And they expect all of this to be efficient, convenient, and easy—now.

Most retailers understand this conceptually and have started implementing strategies targeted at addressing this new norm in retail. Before we talk about these strategies (and their implications), let’s first take a step back and discuss the difference between the concepts of ‘omnichannel’ vs. ‘unified-commerce’—these are sometimes used interchangeably, but are in fact different.

Omnichannel defines a retail environment that aims to serve the consumer through any relevant channel, but it does not really address how that is accomplished. Unified commerce, on the other hand, takes the omnichannel concept one step further and describes an environment that utilizes a cohesive approach to serving the customer through all relevant channels via unified systems, processes, and organizations which are designed and optimized to have all functions focused on satisfying customer needs across the multiple channels—in a highly integrated and optimized way.

When considering the newer and much deeper concept of unified commerce, the focus should be on the term ‘unified’ and how it differentiates this strategy from the more traditional omnichannel concept that has been used for years.

The omnichannel mindset, combined with changes in consumer expectations and desires—along with the ubiquity of smart phones and other personal technologies—has led to several unintended consequences that must be evaluated and resolved when considering embarking on a unified commerce go-to-market strategy. We’ll explore some of these considerations