By Retail Doctor Group, in association with Ebeltoft Group

Unified commerce is transforming Australian retail, currently valued at AUD $44 billion. Early adopters in 2022 saw a 7% revenue boost, with a potential AUD $30 billion industry growth if more retailers embrace unified commerce in 2024 and beyond. 

Over 68% of Australian businesses are investing in unified commerce systems, or are considering it to maintain a competitive edge. The benefits of adopting a unified commerce strategy include consolidating inventory, customer, and payment views, allowing retailers to anticipate and exceed customer expectations. 

Customers shop the brand, not the channel, so retailers need to follow suit, potentially opening doors to marketplaces they could not access before. 


  • What is Unified Commerce?
  • ​How Can Retailers Implement Unified Commerce?
  • ​Implementing Unified Commerce: A 10-Step Checklist for Retailers​

What is Unified Commerce? 

Unified commerce is a retail strategy that offers consumers a seamless, integrated shopping experience across all channels and touchpoints for any given retailer, brand, or collaboration. The key elements of unified commerce include: 

  • omnichannel experiences. 
  • centralised data. 
  • iIntegrated systems. 
  • universal payments. 
  • fulfilment flexibility. 

The point of implementing unified commerce strategies is to break down channel silos and eliminate any disconnects across those channels. As a retailer, your goal is therefore to create a truly unified system that engages and transacts with your customers, providing them with a far better shopping experience overall.  

Along the way, you’ll find that your operating model and strategic decision-making capabilities have grown distinctly more efficient, more reliable, and more transparent. This ties in with what we have learned so far about the needs of today’s impatient consumers, those who spend their money wisely, are slow to trust, and demand value, sustainability, and community inclusion in all their transactions. 

This is what the key elements of unified commerce mean for your business: 

Omnichannel Experiences 

Omnichannel shopping provides a consistent customer experience across the web, mobile devices, physical stores, call centres, and more. Information and data flows across these channels so transactions can occur anywhere. This information and data needs to be exchanged efficiently so transactions happen seamlessly, no matter which touchpoint the customer chooses to use.  

A cohesive approach like this not only enhances the convenience aspect for your customers but also gives you an opportunity to engage with your audience more effectively, driving sales and fostering loyalty. In turn, you get to meet the evolving needs and preferences of your customers, increase your service standards, and yet, still maintain a unified brand image everywhere your customers find you.  

Centralised Data Collection 

Collecting centralised data connects all your data across all channels and gives you one single view of your customer and your inventory. Centralising your data consolidates your approach, but also streamlines your operations, provides personalised services to your customers, and synchronises customer interactions and inventory management, thereby enhancing efficiency and engagement. 

Integrated Systems 

In the retail landscape, streamlining the integration of various systems and processes like Point of Sale (POS), inventory management, order processing, and fulfilment mechanisms is vitally important. Not only is streamlining a lean process, but it also cuts out middlemen and improves efficiency.  

Streamlining is a massive cost-saving exercise that, while disruptive in nature at its start, also eliminates waste, builds sustainability, and enables quality supply chain relationships that only serve to strengthen your brand. What’s left is known as a value chain and your streamlining activities should focus on: 

  • analysing the internal operations of your business to understand costs. 
  • locating activities that add the most value. 
  • and figuring out how you differentiate your business from the competition. 

This seamless integration not only enhances operational efficiency but also enriches the overall customer experience, thereby reinforcing the retailer’s competitive edge in a dynamic market. 

Universal Payments 

The rise of cashless ways to pay for purchases has resulted in very few customers who still use cash on an everyday basis. The convenience of having multiple ways to pay means that a retailer’s payment options should include a selection of these multiple methods of payment. 

True borderless purchasing power means that anyone anywhere can pay for goods or services in just about any way imaginable, as long as it works across online, mobile, and brick-and-mortar stores. This includes:  

  • digital wallets like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. 
  • credit or debit cards. 
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. 
  • voucher and gift card redemption. 
  • rewards and loyalty-based earnings. 
  • NFC payments and EMV chip cards. 
  • affiliate voucher systems, and more.  

Universal payment methods provide flexible payment processing and accept payments across all channels. By integrating these solutions, retailers ensure a smooth payment experience for customers, irrespective of whether they’re shopping online or offline. 

In other words, if a customer can pay for goods or services using Bitcoin online, they should be able to do the same in-store. This adaptability not only enhances convenience but also broadens the scope of transactions, enabling businesses to cater to a wider audience and capitalise on emerging trends in consumer transactional behaviour. 

Fulfilment Flexibility 

Flexible fulfilment methods enable customers to purchase anywhere (online, in-store, social channels, partners, etc.) and fulfil anywhere (ship to home, in-store pickup, curbside, etc.). This strategic approach emphasises the importance of catering to diverse customer preferences and lifestyles, fostering convenience and accessibility in the shopping experience.  

Retailers who offer versatile fulfilment solutions can adapt to evolving consumer demands in a way that enhances customer satisfaction, while also driving the kind of business growth that differentiates them from the rest in an increasingly competitive market. 

A lot of retailers are already managing this aspect of unified commerce, with cross-channel service offerings such as online purchasing with an option to collect their order in-store. BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) is an ideal way for retailers to drive in-store foot traffic, while also connecting on- and off-line experiences into a seamless customer journey of convenience. 

In fact, 60% of consumers polled in a recent survey preferred BOPIS as their fulfilment method. And because the overarching goal of unified commerce is to provide a consistent experience across all channels, the BOPIS concept has given rise to a few other truly connected ways for retailers to engage and transact with customers, including: 

  • ROPIS – Reserve Online, Pick up in Store allows consumers to choose the items they want from a retailer’s online catalogue or webstore, add to cart, and then pay for the purchase in-store. More than half of consumers polled preferred ROPIS as their fulfilment method. 
  • BORIS – Buy Online, Return in Store has become a significant differentiator for retailers, with almost 50% of consumers saying they’re more likely to buy from an online store if they can return faulty or incorrect items in-store. 
  • BOSS – Buy Online, Ship to Store is another fulfilment method that helps retailers get more feet through their door. BOSS has seen phenomenal growth in post-pandemic times.

How Can Retailers Implement Unified Commerce? 

Unified commerce breaks down channel silos, prioritises convenience and flexibility, enhances the overall shopping experience, cultivates stronger customer relationships, and fosters loyalty through tailored and streamlined journeys that cross multiple touchpoints. This connected approach emphasises retailers’ adaptability to diverse consumer preferences and promotes cohesive brand interaction, regardless of the chosen shopping channel.  

Unified commerce is a multi-faceted way of doing business, where aspects of the key elements overlap each other. For this reason, implementing unified commerce requires various strategies that must be aligned. 

So how can this be done? 

Implementing an Omnichannel Environment for Unified Commerce 

The key is breaking down channel silos to create a seamless, integrated shopping experience for customers across all touchpoints. This requires organisation-wide initiatives to unify commerce. Here are 5 ways retailers can implement an omnichannel environment for unified commerce: 

  • Consistency is critical to seamless experiences. This means consistent product information, pricing, promotions, etc. across all sales channels – online, mobile, in-store, etc. 
  • Enable your customers. Customers should be able to shop, order, and return products through any of the retailers’ channels, whether it was bought on one and returned on another. Integrate social media as another customer touchpoint and have a social media presence customers can use to connect. 
  • Make inventory management a priority. All channels need instant access to your inventory data. Customers should be able to see real-time product availability, but this will also prevent the retailer from overselling an out-of-stock item. 
  • Empower your employees. Your store associates will need to be connected to your inventory data at all times. Provide them with mobile devices to look up inventory, place online orders for customers in store, and use available customer data to make better personalised recommendations. 
  • Personalise your offerings. Leverage customer data collected online and in store to deliver personalised marketing messages and product recommendations across all of your channels. 

Implementing a Centralised Data System for Unified Commerce 

Centralising your data from different channels and systems into integrated sets provides the foundation for cross-channel visibility, a necessary component of omnichannel environments. The goal here is end-to-end integration of related systems and re-engineering processes to break down channel silos.   

This requires enterprise-wide collaboration and retail change management. These are just some of the steps in the process to implement centralised data systems: 

  • Connect your systems across channels. Use cloud-based retail management platforms to unify systems and data into one central hub. Give store associates a single view of each customer’s data, transactions, etc. by integrating order management to connected POS and CRM systems. Sharing customer profiles across all channels will provide a consistent and customised service. 
  • Use a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Platforms like Salesforce give you unified customer profile and purchasing history across all of your connected channels. You can also track interactions, purchases, service calls, etc. in one place using a CRM.
  • Implement a retail management system (RMS) or platform. Connect your data from all sales channels, including online, mobile, in-store, and social. Implement unified commerce platforms that connect siloed software systems into one centralised RMS to display a “single source of truth” for customer, product, inventory, and transaction data. 
  • Establish a “single view” of inventory. Leverage a centralised order management system that has visibility into inventory and order status. Build a master product catalogue that standardises product features and specifications, pricing, and assets like images and videos across channels. Integrate your POS systems with warehouse management systems and supply chain partner systems.  
  • Manage your sales and marketing campaigns. Rather than keep marketing and sales in their own silos, implement a central content management system to manage marketing content, campaigns, and assets. Use a centralised analytics platform to get a single view of key retail performance indicators across channels – traffic, sales, conversions, etc. 
  • Process your data. Use data integration and ETL tools to Extract, Transform, and Load your connected data from distributed systems into a central data repository. Store unified data in a central database like a data warehouse (if processed) or data lake (if raw data) to enable enterprise-wide reporting and analytics. Use enterprise service buses, APIs or microservices to integrate separate applications like POS, inventory, CRM, and fulfillment systems. 

Implementing Universal and Flexible Payment Systems for Unified Commerce 

Unified commerce breaks down payment silos to give customers a unified, universal, and flexible checkout experience, be that online, in-store, or in-app. There are a few ways retailers can implement flexible payment systems that give customers seamless ways to checkout: 

  • Take payments digital. Allow customers to pay however they want – whether in-store, online, on a mobile device, using stored payment credentials, etc. Synchronize these tender types in a central wallet. 
  • Partner with payment service providers. Create partnerships with payment vendors like Adyen and Stripe that offer omni-channel payment support and unified reporting. 
  • Connect online and in-store payments. Use electronic data exchange (EDI) to process orders and payments across channels and with vendors/suppliers. 
  • Implement smart POS systems that support seamless in-store payments. Leverage mobile POS systems like Square that work seamlessly across offline and ecommerce stores. Integrate POS system with ecommerce platform’s payment gateway to allow all tender types in-store and online. 
  • Do your homework. Analyse payments data holistically across channels for full visibility into sales, fraud patterns, and customer spending. 

Implementing Fulfilment Flexibility for Unified Commerce 

Impatient consumers demand flexibility. They want to feel in control of their spend, but it’s not just about the money anymore. Shoptimism encompasses more than just the act of buying something; it includes how that something is delivered, the rewards-based emotion that comes with unboxing a new purchase.  

Flexible fulfilment options provide customers with multiple ways to choose how and where they receive their orders, thereby catering to this need. Retailers can take advantage of this autonomy-based need by offering some of the following flexible fulfilment options as a choice when checking out: 

  • Be operationally savvy. Analyse fulfilment costs and capabilities across your network to optimise options per customer location. 
  • Meet customer demands. Share inventory availability data across channels to meet customer fulfilment expectations. 
  • Expand your distribution network. Leverage stores, distribution centres, and drop-ship options to ship from wherever inventory exists. Partner with Click & Collect with pickup/dropoff locations to offer additional fulfilment access points. 
  • Streamline routing and shipment processes. Implement distributed order management to route each order to the optimal fulfilment location and method. 
  • Empower the customer. Implement buy online, pick up in store options and connect inventory systems across channels to enable this. Allow store pickup of online orders from any location rather than just the original purchase store. Provide easy self-service pick up options such as BOPIS, ROPIS, and BOSS. Enable in-store returns or exchanges of items purchased online (BORIS) through connected POS and order management systems. 

Implementing Unified Commerce: A 10-Step Checklist for Retailers 

Unified commerce breaks down channel silos to deliver seamless shopping experiences. Follow this 10-step checklist to guide your implementation: 

Step 1: Assess Current Retail Channels and Systems 

  • Map existing online, mobile, and in-store systems and processes. 
  • Identify integration gaps causing channel silos. 
  • Review pain points and opportunities. 

Key Takeaway: Get clear on your starting point for transformation. 

Step 2: Define Unified Commerce Strategy and Goals 

  • Set objectives for unified customer experiences. 
  • Develop metrics to track progress like conversion rates. 
  • Prioritise initiatives based on impact and effort. 

Key Takeaway: Maintain focus on strategic goals throughout implementation. 

Step 3: Obtain Buy-In from Executive Stakeholders 

  • Make the business case for investment required. 
  • Secure executive endorsement and sponsorship. 
  • Assign team roles and oversight responsibilities. 

Key Takeaway: Unified commerce requires enterprise-wide collaboration. 

Step 4: Implement Centralised Customer and Commerce Data 

  • Identify master data sources. Remove duplicates. 
  • Centralise data into a warehouse or lake. 
  • Create unified views of customers, products, orders, inventory. 

Key Takeaway: Foundational data integration enables omnichannel experiences. 

Step 5: Integrate and Connect Related Systems and Processes 

  • Connect CRM, POS, inventory, order management. 
  • Redesign processes for cross-channel visibility. 
  • Ensure flexible fulfilment options. 

Key Takeaway: End-to-end integration removes friction across channels.  

Step 6: Enable Consistent Product and Order Information 

  • Standardise product catalogues and pricing across channels. 
  • Maintain real-time visibility into inventory availability. 
  • Provide transparent order status and tracking. 

Key Takeaway: Customers expect consistent information regardless of channel. 

Step 7: Implement Flexible, Omnichannel Payment Options 

  • Support top payment methods in-store, online, on mobile. 
  • Allow customers to transact however they want. 
  • Connect payment systems across channels. 

Key Takeaway: Break down payment silos to streamline checkout. 

Step 8: Leverage and Deliver Relevant, Personalized Experiences 

  • Leverage unified data for targeted campaigns across channels. 
  • Recommend products based on omni-channel behaviour. 
  • Provide customised service. 

Key Takeaway: Unified data enables seamless customer engagement. 

Step 9: Train Associates on Unified Commerce Capabilities 

  • Educate store staff on new integrated processes. 
  • Provide change management and digital skill development. 
  • Reinforce delivering excellent omnichannel experiences. 

Key Takeaway: Employee adoption is critical to transform customer experiences. 

Step 10: Continuously Optimize and Evolve Customer Experiences 

  • Use unified analytics to identify issues and opportunities. 
  • Leverage unified data to test and refine experiences. 
  • Adapt as customer expectations and technology evolve. 

Key Takeaway: Unified commerce is an ongoing journey. Review, test, and update periodically. 

Unified commerce is a Business Fit strategy. Contact the Retail Doctor Group now for a customised solution to your needs and get Business Fit today.

Contact the Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consulting practice that builds retail channels and increases the performance of retail and FMCG businesses through our customised & transformative ‘Business Fitness™’ methodologies.

Since 2005 we have partnered with our clients to build powerful, award-winning, sustainable, and “fit” implemented retail. Ensuring our clients consistently achieve above benchmarks, build sales and margin results. We stay with our clients to ensure success.

As the Australian elected member of International Retail Experts, Ebeltoft Group, we have more than 20 years of experience as retailers and consultants in all retail channels, segments and regions. Today, members of the Ebeltoft network advise 80 of the 100 largest retail companies in the world.

Want to know more about the Future of Retail and prepare your retail strategies? Schedule an appointment with our Insights division by e-mailing us at or calling 02 9460 2882.