Consumers are increasingly demanding a convenient shopping experience - whether it's online or offline.

Consumer expectations about convenience and consistency when shopping have changed. Modern retailers are expected to offer a thorough shopper experience through all channels – whether it be online, in-store or in app.

Customers do not see these sales platforms as being separate. The problem is that behind the scenes – or the screen – these online and offline channels are separate from an operational perspective. They’re using different software and payment systems.

Unified commerce has emerged as a solution for tying these platforms together into one cohesive system to create the consistent and convenient experience customers have come to expect. It’s about not simply being present on multiple sales platforms but making the most of those platforms.

Without it, a well-intended omnichannel retail strategy can leave customers feeling confused and dissatisfied. When a customer buys a pair of shoes online, they’re unsure why they cannot return them in store. If they can see an item in stock on your website, they’ll wonder why you’re out of stock in the shopping mall. All of this comes down to the fact that a retailers’ platforms are simply not unified at the back end.

Compelling convenience

By utilising one payment platform to link channels, unified commerce allows retailers to recognise their customers across channels. Shopper recognition brings customer conveniences like simplifying in-store returns for items bought online. Our research shows 40 per cent of customers want this option.

The modern consumer is convenience obsessed. Gone is the in-store experience of selecting an item and discovering it is out of stock. With tablet assisted sales staff or in-store kiosks enabled by unified commerce, shoppers can now browse items online while in-store, then order and pay through mobile point of sale. The item is then delivered straight to their home. Our studies showed 48 per cent of customers coveted this endless aisle convenience and its usage has been shown to increase sales by as much as 14 per cent.

By allowing customer card details used in face-to-face or online purchases to be saved securely and tokenised, unified commerce allows retailers to offer one- or zero- click purchases online or in-app. It is a model built on ease, and many businesses are getting behind it.

A more complete view of your customer

Brands increasingly recognise that seamless channel integration creates myriad advantages in a fiercely competitive sector, like building a powerful, single source of customer information. As you gather deeper data insights, this model really puts you in their shoes. Cross-channel profiling supports the development of eye-opening personalisation campaigns that demonstrate knowledge of customer preferences and their value to your brand.

Armed with context of your customers’ preferences online, a shop assistant can have much richer and more tailored in-store conversations. Personal touches like this can be hugely significant. Adyen’s recent Future of Australian Retail study shows 65 per cent of shoppers say that a personalised in-store offer is likely to make them spend more, while 66 per cent say it would make them more likely to recommend a brand to friends and family.

Creating the perfect experience

What the modern consumer considers the ideal shopping experience continues to change. What is clear is the perfect model simply doesn’t exist. Consumers love online retail but remain sceptical of the misleading photos and confusing sizing and information that can often accompany it. Delivery costs may be high, waiting times may be inconvenient and the threat of cyber-crime is constant.

Nonetheless, consumers flock to online shopping because of the convenience it affords. We are able to flick through a seemingly endless catalogue of products, and organise them conveniently according to price, colour or rating. And we don’t have to queue up to do so.

To create a strong consumer experience retailers need to pull from the best of both online and in-store, reshaping the way we offer products. In China, e-commerce companies like Alibaba are attempting to strike this balance in creative ways. In one of their department stores they introduced a virtual dressing room which allows shoppers the ability to try on multiple different outfits without the hassles of a changing room.

Tesco successfully opened a virtual supermarket in a Korean subway station where passers-by could order products on their commute home simply by scanning QR codes on their mobile. It is hopefully only a matter of time before Australia joins its Asian counterparts in this e-commerce ingenuity.

Although the retail environment is getting tougher, there are clear ways to reach your targets. Unified commerce helps you recognise customers and their preferences in ways omnichannel has been unable to. With its potential to increase revenue and reduce costs, the return on investment is clear. Acting as soon as possible and creating a cshopping experience should be a top priority.

Michel van Aalten, Country Manager Australia and New Zealand, Adyen