What is a Commerce Platform? (And Why Retailers Should Care)

If you’re a multi-channel retailer with omnichannel challenges, chances are you’ve heard the term “commerce platform” flying around lately. But what does it mean?

In basic terms, a commerce platform simply refers to technology that enables a transaction (the commerce bit). The platform part allows you to overlay that technology across various channels such as online and in-store.

A single commerce platform gives you a master view on all your data across all your channels which allows you to tell a consistent story and nurture your customers properly. Data from your commerce platform can also provide you with key metrics on where to invest your time, money and effort.

A commerce platform is possible when systems are connected in a way that reduces inefficiencies and friction. That's why e-commerce solutions are a key component to a successful commerce platform. When e-commerce leverages APIs and integrations, it connects the physical store to a retailer's online presence. This creates the highly coveted consistency that enables retailers to leverage consistent data and allows customers to be supported with the platform's benefits.

Why it matters to customers

While a customer won't be aware of the behind-the-scenes operations of an effective commerce platform, they will be appreciative of the benefits that omnichannel solutions enable. Customers are looking for consistency and convenience, so when a commerce platform that actively communicates with existing systems create efficiencies that translate to seamless retail experiences, no matter the channel or location. 

Customers can begin and end their shopping journey wherever works best for them without worrying that inconsistent product details, pricing, or availability will act as a roadblock in their path to purchase. One shopper may start their search online but choose to reserve an item online and pick it up in-store. Another shopper may buy the item online but choose curbside pickup for a fast and contactless experience. Commerce platforms ensure that both customers, and others who have similar but differing processes, all successfully complete their purchase. 

A true commerce platform will equip you with the same capabilities for all channels. You’ll be able to re-use tools from one channel to another (i.e. the promotions engine is the same for in-store and e-commerce).

Why it matters to operations

Rolling out a new program or initiative across multiple channels can be headache-inducing at best or downright impossible at worst. Platform tools can help facilitate how you implement programs across in-store and online such as buy online, pickup in-store or reserve online, buy in-store.

Moving to a commerce platform can better set you up to tackle a multi-channel approach to retail. When product inventory is updated, product details and pricing are automatically published across platforms so no matter where a customer shops, they can be confident that they'll get the right product at the right price. When a marketing campaign is launched across your channels you’ll be able to more accurately attribute sales to that campaign whether they occurred online or in-store.

Today's modern customers have little patience for a retailer who cannot meet their rising expectations; they require multiple methods of payment, many avenues to experience the products, and different ways to pick up or return their purchased goods. Without a platform that successfully supports, powers, and enables commerce of all kinds, a retailer will fall out of favor with even their most loyal shoppers. 

If silos are an issue for you, moving to a commerce platform is likely a good solution to bringing all your systems and data together. Download our whitepaper titled, From Legacy to Omnichannel-Enabled: How to make the move with the 4 best practices for system optimization to learn what you need to look for to get started.

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