CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 24, 2018
Forward Thinking

Retail supply chains focus on "unified commerce"

An annual survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners finds that creating a seamless shopping experience in stores, on the Web, and on mobile devices is a top priority for retailers.

Top North American retailers are planning to restructure their supply chains to go beyond multichannel and omnichannel retailing, according to a survey conducted by the consulting firm Boston Retail Partners (BRP). Ninety-three percent of the more than 500 retailer respondents in BRP's 2014 "Supply Chain Benchmark Survey" said they were planning or implementing a "unified commerce model" to enable a "seamless shopping experience, whether in the store, on the Web, or anywhere customers choose to shop with mobile devices."

BRP says that the unified commerce model differs from multichannel and omnichannel retailing by offering a much more integrated shopping experience. While omnichannel retailing does try to integrate the different retail channels (such as store, Web, and mobile), these channels typically still operate as separate silos with disparate technologies. Unified commerce, however, eliminates individual sales channels, provides a more holistic customer experience, and leverages a single technology platform.

Fifty-four percent of survey respondents said they were in the planning stages of that model, while 39 percent said they were already implementing it. Seventy-five percent of retail respondents said they are making inventory available for fulfillment to all sales channels as part of their unified commerce initiatives.

In addition, 22 percent said they have merged cross-channel efforts into a single organizational structure, as opposed to having separate organizations. The survey also discovered that despite the emergence of sophisticated supply chain management software, a surprising 46 percent of respondents still manage their supply chains with spreadsheets.

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