FORBES - Eric Costechareyre: Govern technology to unify commerce

Guiding marketing and digital departments over the past five years, omnichannel has initiated the cultural transformation of retailers based on the customer experience and journey.

It has also revealed the inability of many organisations to translate this seamless journey in terms of both technology and internal governance. Unified commerce is aimed at meeting this dual challenge, which has been left vacant by omnichannel, in order to offer a friction-free experience at last. Over the course of two decades, we have moved from thinking in terms of supply to thinking in terms of demand. From a product-based approach to a service-based approach. From long production modes to very short cycles, in order to meet the need to bring products to market instantly and responsively. From in-store commerce to unified commerce, thanks to which it is now possible to switch between digital and physical to make purchases.  

Omnichannel: a transformation that is more cultural than technological?

Multichannel, cross-channel or omnichannel yesterday; unified commerce today. The evolution of commerce over the past twenty years has been marked by many concepts, which illustrate the need for marketing and digital teams to bring meaning and understand the challenges involved. Core business functions have driven the cultural transformation among retailers, which today share a vision of a customer journey centred on an experience that is as smooth as possible. While this shared vision is attractive, it is coming up against a major obstacle: many organisations are not currently able to technologically translate the omnichannel approach in order to offer a truly seamless experience. Management and display of stock, payment at the checkout or online, delivery, after-sales service, etc. A little bit like the various parts hidden beneath a car bonnet, the user's omnichannel experience is based on a complex machine, made up of various components that need to communicate and interact with each other. The difficulty lies in the fact that these digital applications do not speak the same language: they are designed independently and then linked up with the existing information system. Omnichannel has enabled a first giant step by making these applications communicate with each other. However, it has come up against the obstacle of technologically integrating these applications around a single data source. In other words, a single language making it possible to analyse and guide all the interactions of thousands of users with a brand in real-time.

Unified commerce: the best of both worlds at last?

In addition to this technological challenge, there is that of enabling communication and cooperation between the various departments involved in these interactions, which by their nature speak little or not at all with one another. This is the challenge of unified commerce today: reintegrate governance of technology and of a more open company at the heart of the customer experience vision. Unified commerce therefore requires deep-seated cultural and organisational change, in order to synchronise the customer experience and the huge amount of data it creates. This can happen by rebalancing decision-making powers within executive committees for unified commerce projects. Information systems departments need to be involved from the outset, based on joint governance with core business functions. Beyond the obvious technological benefit, this convergence can bring other advantages, such as the integration of agile and iterative working methods inherited from digital, in order to manage these projects more efficiently and better meet the challenges faced by retailers. In other words, a common frame of reference needs to be created to unify commerce.