Business

A Complete Guide to Unified Commerce

June 25, 2021

The modern day consumer looks very different to the consumer 50 years ago.

It’s hard to believe so much has changed in such little time, but you just need to look around you to see it: people are shopping from their phones, getting items delivered at home and paying with their watches.

The new shopping experience changes so quickly that merchants are having to adapt their shopping experience in record times in order to maintain a competitive advantage. And when your customers are used to the likes of Amazon and Google, the expectations are high.

Unified commerce is that tool that will help you deliver a fantastic customer experience on par with modern day expectations, while also making it easier to manage your own business.

What is unified commerce?

A unified commerce platform allows you to connect every single customer touchpoint and view it all from one dashboard.

Instead of using one partner for separate business functions, you use only one. This helps you deliver a great customer experience across both online and offline channels, while managing and seeing everything from one dashboard. For example, with one platform you might be able to see eCommerce, order fulfillment, inventory management and payments.

Unified commerce is essentially the same as omnichannel, but instead of managing channels separately you manage them all from one location. This allows you to deliver a better customer experience. Whether you accept payments in person, remotely or online, all the data feeds into the same system with unified commerce.

Let’s illustrate with an example: at Pomelo Pay, we offer unified payments. Our customers can use three different types of payment functions: in-person QR code payments, remote payment links and e-commerce through an online shop and APIs. Although they gather payments from their customers through different channels, everything ends up on one dashboard:

pomelo pay dashboard

Being able to see everything from one dashboard makes it a lot easier to make business decisions, convert every sale and reach more customers.

Why does unified commerce matter?

It matters because it’s the future of shopping.

Nowadays it’s companies like Amazon, Google and Apple that are setting the standards for customer experience with their unified tools. We’re living in an age where the customer wants to be in control of the shopping experience and have the flexibility to purchase using the payment method they want, and the channel they want.

As Simon Verraest, our co-founder recently mentioned in our Opinion Series:

“Customers now may have specific reasons for choosing a certain payment method and there shouldn’t be any friction for merchants to offer a multitude of options. For example, someone might want to use their British Airways Amex for points or cashback, use a specific Visa Credit Card for purchase protection, or even use Alipay or WeChat Pay for a better forex rate.”

Unified commerce allows you to deliver an experience that is to the same standard as these large tech companies. Not only that, but it also provides you with relevant insights: which payment method is most popular, when people prefer to shop and a whole host of other observations.

Delivering a unified experience with different partners can often be costly and complicated, since there are so many channels and platforms to manage. Communicating between platforms can get complex, and you may find yourself having to hire multiple people.

That’s why unified commerce is about using only one system. This simplifies customer experience, reduces costs and errors, and makes it a lot easier to train your staff.

Unified commerce in action

At Pomelo Pay, we allow merchants to use unified commerce through unified payments, using a few main tools:

  1. In person QR code payments 
  2. In person contactless payments
  3. Payment links (remote)
  4. Online shop (online)
  5. Custom e-commerce with our Connect API (online)

Businesses can offer offline, online and remote payments to customers, and use and see these payments through one system.

Let’s see how Tom, customer of Pomelo Pay and owner of food vendor Phoreal, uses unified payments to grow his business.

Tom has several staff and sells Vietnamese food as a street vendor in Kingston and he uses all three types Pomelo Pay’s payment solutions:

QR code payments: Most of his customers come and buy his meals in person and Tom uses QR codes to take in-person payments. These are displayed outside his stall, but he can also use them on his mobile device. With QR codes he doesn’t have to use card machines and pay for any expensive fees. QR codes are efficient, easy to use and speed up the purchasing process.

pho real unified commerce

Online shop: Tom also has an online shop. Customers can order online while they wait in the queue, or order online and pick up the order later on. Tom uses Pomelo Pay’s online shop so he can easily take online orders.

pho real online menu

Payment links: Finally, Tom uses payment links to take remote payments. Whenever there are large orders or a reservation, he sends his customers a payment link that allows them to pay remotely and securely. He explains the situation himself:

“Payment links are my favourite. A lot of people take card payments over the phone which I don’t think is safe. So I send them the payment link through to their phone directly by taking their name and phone number. They then pay for it, and then I know that the order has been secured.”

In all these three situations, Tom can see each customer purchasing through one dashboard whether they buy online, in-person or remotely, Tom will see the payment through his dashboard. The customer is happy, because they can pick the method that suits them best. Tom is happy because he can easily manage each solution through one system.  

Read the case study: How a Street Food Vendor from Kingston Market Boosted Revenue by 10% with Pomelo Pay

Some of the main benefits

Apart from “it’s the future of shopping”, what are some other reasons you should adopt a unified commerce tool? Here are the main ones:

Gather unique insights

By putting all your payments through one system, you gain insights you won’t see if everything was split up across various channels. That’s because you have a 360 degree view of your customers along with up to date information.

For example, you’ll be able to see which payment channel is the most popular at which time. You might see that people prefer using QR codes when they are in a rush or prefer ordering online in the morning rather than the afternoon.

Based on those insights, you can make business decisions that are more in line with how your customers like to pay - for example, setting up more QR codes or opening up earlier in the morning. Now that’s data-driven decision making!

Increased flexibility

If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that it’s important to be able to adapt quickly. You want to be able to adapt and respond to unexpected events, as well as have the right systems up at the right time. 2020 has also catalysed the adoption of technology, which means many companies in all the industries are now digitising their services.

Having several payment channels set up makes it a lot easier to adapt with the current situation. If in-person events are cancelled or restricted, you can quickly focus on your digital channels. If there’s a big rise in in-person purchases, you can rely on a robust in-person payment channel that won’t break or get overwhelmed with demand.

For example, when the lockdown began and fewer people started using cash, Amran from Sky Taxis had to find a way to take card payments. Instead of buying separate card terminals, he started using Pomelo Pay to take QR code payments with his phone. This way, he doesn’t have to pay for terminals and each of his drivers can take payments with their phone.

Read the case study: How a Local Taxi Business Boosted Passenger Hires with Pomelo Pay

By working with one partner rather than several, opening up a new channel is as easy as clicking on a few buttons. You won’t need to research new partners or set up a new system.

Increased customer loyalty

The most powerful aspect of unified commerce is that it reflects and imitates purchasing experiences from the top companies in the world. A multiple touchpoint customer experience is a big unique selling point, which many merchants haven’t adopted yet.

83% of customers say they want to be able to switch between channels when interacting with a brand. And although 60% of brands believe they offer a great mobile experience, only 20% of customers agree.

Customers want seamless customer experiences, but most merchants still use a siloed approach. Here’s where the opportunity lies: offering customers a simple and easy buying experience will encourage them to stick around, recommend you to others and keep returning.

David Fox, director of Energy Performance Nationwide, used to spend hours chasing clients to pay invoices on time. Now he uses payment links, and he gets paid instantly and clients get to use a much more efficient system. The positive feedback he gets from clients means they are a lot more likely to pick him when they need an EPC certificate in the future.

Read the case study: How this Business Owner Uses Pomelo Pay to Get Paid Instantly

Unified commerce is the future of the modern day shopping experience, and it’s already something consumers expect with every merchant. It’s a win-win: your customer gets a consistent experience, and you are able to track and manage everything from one location.

Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? If so, sign up to Pomelo Pay for free!