It is not surprising that the concept of Unified Commerce was a key theme at last week’s Salesforce XChange conference. After all, changing consumer behavior is forcing retailers and brands to change everything about how they engage with shoppers. Given the complexity, what may be surprising is how far along some brands are in their Unified Commerce journey.

Several of these retail trailblazers were at XChange to share their stories.

vineyard vines, winner of the Pacesetter Award for Innovation, leverages several Salesforce technologies including Digital, Commerce Cloud Store, OMS and Marketing Cloud, to unify the shopping experience across channels.

“It’s exciting for us to be a charter customer for Commerce Cloud Store,” Karen Beebe, VP of Technology. “This lays the foundation for a unified approach – One view of the customer, one view of product and one view of inventory, on a seamless infrastructure with a continuous innovation model on the cloud.”

“We ask ourselves every day how we can make things easier for the customer.”

Like vineyard vines, Kiehl’s and Oasis are taking a deliberate, measured approach to unified commerce. Why? Because it requires companies to fundamentally reimagine the way it engages with their customers, shifting their focus from systems of record to systems of engagement. It is a never ending journey, not a project.

In a breakout session, Kiehl’s shared that its omni-channel customers represent 8% of its total active customer base, and that these customers spend 135% more than online-only shoppers, and 121% more than store-only shoppers. Grace Edinger, Manager of Digital Products, discussed the steps in its phased approach:

  • Phase 1: In 2015 it introduced Ship from Store in 5 stores, to decrease fulfillment costs and increase store productivity
    • It routed only orders shipping to within 30 miles of a store, and limited routing of orders during peak weeks or weekends
  • Phase 2: Pickup in Store introduced in 5 stores in late 2016, to create upsell opportunities and reduce friction in checkout (stores get credit for this sale at Kiehl’s in this scenario)
    • Kiehl’s chose stores grouped two geographic areas, and turned off the program during peak periods.
  • Phase 3: Broader market rollout of these initiatives is planned for 2017.

From its pilot, it learned that Ship from Store customers could receive their merchandise within two days, versus up to seven days if shipping from its distribution center. It also saw that its fulfillment costs were not less expensive when shipping from a store, as it originally expected.

For Pickup in Store, Kiehl’s found that 60% of shoppers chose this option at checkout when confronted with shipping fees, and that stores love it since the option has higher average order value – and up-sell is happening when shoppers arrive to collect their merchandise. Its last learning was that omni-channel fulfillment requires omni-channel marketing strategies, including dedicated promotions.

Going forward, the company is considering adding high-touch amenities like thank you notes, channel-specific exclusive products, in-store appointment scheduling, and auto-replenishment in store.

Oasis, a UK-based women’s fashion retailer, also began its unified commerce journey with Ship from Store – way back in 2010, in fact.

According to Briony Garbett, Customer Director at Oasis, “72% of Oasis customers research online before buying in-store, and in-store sales still constitute 76% of its sales. Therefore, facilitating a seamless customer journey across channels is critical.”

Like Kiehl’s, Oasis found that distribution costs were higher for orders fulfilled from stores vs. distribution centers. And like Kiehl’s, the company is taking a phased approach to omni-channel; starting with Ship from Store and progressing to service, including online stylist booking and carrying local online bestsellers in the local store.

To offer true unified commerce, Garbett says, all cross-channel customer journeys must be facilitated beyond in-store ordering and omni-channel returns.

“Unified commerce doesn’t always have to be bold, purposeful and obvious in its intent. For example, at Oasis, we take a feed from Salesforce Commerce Cloud to share geo-specific online bestsellers in their relevant local stores. This enhances our boutique brand value despite being a fast-fashion chain.”

The brand has the enablers in place to realize a more complete unified commerce vision, including digital receipts that facilitate a single-customer view and create opportunities to enhance the customer experience; personalization including post-purchase emails, recommendations and localized marketing.

Of course, the path to Unified Commerce has its challenges: organizational inertia, disparate legacy systems, demonstrating ROI, and no real time view of inventory and customer data.

However daunting these challenges may seem, they can be overcome:

  • Transform your organization to be more customer focused, with shared goals and commitments and incentives to drive sales together regardless of where the order originates.
  • Maximize your existing investments by using stores for fulfillment, activate inventory across all channels, and optimize packaging to contain shipping costs.
  • Leverage technology to the fullest, including a dynamic order management system; expose real-time inventory across channels. Implement safety mechanisms for low-stock items.
  • Empower your customer service reps with service toolkits for returns and exchanges; monitor social media for customer sentiment; don’t make the mistake of segmenting your customers into groups based on commonalities; they are individuals.

To reach a true state of Unified Commerce, retailers and brands would be best served by a single intelligent platform that combines commerce with marketing, sales, service, applications, analytics and community. That’s what the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform delivers.