What is unified commerce and how can it help SMEs?

Published on 22/07/2022 by David Jani

Having all your sales operations managed in a single place can make running a business much smoother, and one way to achieve that is via unified commerce. This eCommerce solution lets businesses simplify customer journeys so that the buying experience is unified from product discovery to final purchase.

Company leader implementing unified commerce strategy

There are many ways running a unified commerce strategy as an SME can lead to better internal efficiency and improved customer experience. For example, it can help businesses save time and resources when rolling out new products across multiple channels or launching promotional sales that reach all their customers simultaneously.

In retail, it is becoming more common as a strategy for bigger businesses. However, there are also numerous reasons newer startups can use it. 

Below, we explain how this organisational strategy works and what elements allow small-to-medium UK businesses to take advantage of its features. 

What is unified commerce?

Unified commerce is a retail strategy that allows businesses to control their sales operations via a single tool. As a recent report from Gartner explains, it takes all the elements of a consumer’s sales journey and touchpoints and merges them into a single continuous, centralised experience

In short, unified commerce means you can manage your entire sales funnel from just one location.

infographic displaying the key features of unified commercial strategy

Retailer businesses use unified commerce to ensure consumers are prioritised and given a seamless customer experience, as well as the most flexibility possible when buying products via a store or service. It also helps companies capitalise on the data they collect from their consumers to provide insights into how users interact with a brand’s sales funnel.

How does unified commerce work?

The goal of unified commerce is to merge the management of sales channels.

This is achieved by using a single unified commerce software platform to establish and oversee all the channels and elements of your business’s sales funnel to sell its products or services.

It, therefore, allows companies to group all their sales and marketing processes in one place. As a result, everything from the initial advertising to the final payment is managed through the same system.

This makes it possible to control numerous tasks from a centralised location, such as:

Unified commerce platform examples

It’s important to consider how implementing a unified commerce approach works in practice. Businesses can run such a system in many ways, especially in a hybrid online-offline environment.

How UK companies scale up unified commerce gives founders a vital choice. There are a few ways that SMEs could unify their systems, which will depend greatly on the type of business being managed. 

This usually presents businesses with three distinct options of ecosystem infrastructure when choosing unified commerce platforms.

  • All-in-one platforms: In this kind of infrastructure, companies manage everything through a single system with all the features necessary to create a singular experience for end users and staff managing the sales process.
  • Microservice platforms: Companies may choose to unify their systems via a conduit platform, which can connect to third-party software to manage individual processes (for example, content management or social media posting).
  • Modular platforms: A modular approach is similar to microservice and all-in-one platforms. The difference is that they let companies decide what modules to use within the vendor’s family of products, allowing owners to bolt on the parts they need for their specific business.

How can UK businesses benefit from unified commerce?

Both big and small retailers can run unified commerce services successfully. However, British SMEs may have some significant advantages if they adopt this system.

Of course, the most noteworthy overall benefit, regardless of company size, is using a singular system to simplify sales management. This means that, rather than a multitude of different platforms, there is a central location where everything within the sales funnel can be managed.

An excellent example of this is managing product information. In this instance, a unified commerce system allows users to enter product information such as key features or prices into the system just once, which can then be used across all sales channels. 

However, for UK SMEs, a major advantage is the relative simplicity of implementing unified commerce. Startups are usually simpler and less rigid in nature, meaning unified commerce can be significantly easier and faster to set up compared to much bigger rivals. 

A smaller company can avoid the massive upheaval and costs necessary to convert long-established and broad processes to a unified system. This is still a significant undertaking, but with fewer channels being managed, building a unified process is more accessible from the ground up. 

 Infographic detailing 3 top pros and cons of using unified sales systems

Are there any disadvantages to unified commerce strategies?

Whilst unified commerce has many advantages for SMEs and startups, there are some important downsides to consider.

Firstly, an essential factor to consider is the required initial investment in both time and money. Unified commerce can make things simpler down the line, but it requires a lot of effort upfront to implement.  

Another significant issue is that SMEs can face losses if the platform they choose isn’t correctly optimised for their sales funnel. 

Many competitors offer systems, and some are better adapted to specific products and sales than others. It’s therefore essential to compare possible eCommerce platform providers carefully before committing to a purchase. 

Unified commerce vs omnichannel strategies

Unified commerce is sometimes confused with omnichannel strategies in retail. However, the two methods are distinctly different from one another.

This is because omnichannel strategies, which Gartner defines as ‘the seamless integration of digital and physical assets’, also rely on consolidating user experience across multiple channels into a single buyer’s journey. 

However, the critical difference is that omnichannel commerce doesn’t normally use a single platform. Instead, it may utilise many to achieve a cohesive customer experience across multiple channels. 

Unified commerce on the other hand usually centralises all the customer data and channels within one software platform. This creates a continuous customer experience regardless of the sales channel they interact with. It also has the added benefit of offering businesses better insights by showing customer engagement across all available channels.

Infographic detailing differences between unified commerce and omnichannel strategies

What are the key takeaways for UK SMEs?

Unified commerce is a strategy that British SMEs can use to their advantage by organising all their channels from a single place. This means that everything within a sales funnel leverages and uses the same software platform and shares the data collected in this process within the infrastructure.

SMEs are particularly well placed to capitalise on this style of management system due to their smaller scale and the relative simplicity (compared to any much bigger rivals) it takes to set up. 

The end goal is a unified and smoother customer journey from their first touchpoint until conversion across all channels. It can also give businesses keener insights into how consumers interact with their brand. 

Looking for eCommerce software? Check out our catalogue. 


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About the author

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.