The Evolution from Omnichannel to Unified Commerce

The retail industry is undergoing a massive transformation in an increasingly connected world. Understanding the shift from omnichannel retail to unified commerce is essential for staying ahead in today’s market. Omnichannel, a well-established approach, has proficiently served customers through various sales channels. However, as consumer demands evolve and the retail ecosystem becomes more complex, omnichannel can sometimes fall short of meeting the logistical needs of modern retail businesses.

Unified commerce has emerged as the next logical link in the evolutionary chain. But what is unified commerce? It’s an advanced retail strategy that goes beyond the omnichannel approach — unified commerce provides consumers with unparalleled convenience, while giving merchants a more holistic understanding of both their internal operations and complex customer behavior. It is designed to efficiently integrate and orchestrate every aspect of the commerce value chain, setting the stage for a seamless shopping experience. 

This transformative model offers something more — an approach that caters to the needs and expectations of the customer and the business alike.

This article examines factors and trends that paved the way for the transition from omnichannel to unified commerce, and the implications this shift holds for retail businesses. It also presents the pivotal role of orchestration and last mile services in the unified commerce journey. 

From Omnichannel to Unified Commerce: Tracing the Retail Transformation

The retail industry’s transition from omnichannel retail to unified commerce is a dynamic and intricate evolution. To understand this shift, it’s essential to recognize how omnichannel was initially conceived. 

The birth of omnichannel was a response to the merging of brick-and-mortar and online shopping. Customers sought the convenience of browsing and buying products online, but still craved the tactile experience and personalized service that physical stores offered. This desire pushed retailers to adopt an omnichannel approach to integrate various shopping channels. However, as the digital retail market advanced, the omnichannel model revealed unforeseen fragmentation and inefficiencies of siloed fulfillment processes.

As we move further into the digital age in our post-pandemic world, customer expectations for retail are higher than ever. The modern consumer wants the best of both worlds — personalized, attentive service reminiscent of the days of the local milkman, coupled with abundant product variety and ease of shopping that contemporary retail affords. In addition, rapid advancements in technology facilitate integrated data systems, which provide retailers with a comprehensive view of customer preferences and behavior. This convergence of heightened customer expectations and technological advancements marks a significant turning point, paving the way for a new paradigm: unified commerce.

Today, unified commerce is touted as an ideal solution to elevated consumer expectations and fierce market competition. It goes beyond merely offering a range of products across multiple channels and focuses on delivering a highly tailored and seamless customer experience throughout the purchasing journey. By weaving together all aspects of retail — from inventory management to customer relations — into a cohesive fabric, unified commerce ensures a streamlined, customized and efficient shopping experience. As consumers increasingly demand more personalization and ease in their shopping experiences, retailers who embrace this unified approach are positioning themselves for success in an ever-evolving market.

Benefits and Implications of the Unified Commerce Evolution for Retail Businesses

As retailers move toward a unified commerce model, they must consider the multifaceted implications of this transition. While unified commerce presents many opportunities and benefits, it also introduces significant challenges in implementation.

Unified commerce signifies a substantial shift in retail operations. By integrating multiple aspects of retail into a single, cohesive platform, businesses can streamline operations, improve sales and offer a superior customer experience. Let’s explore some other benefits of a unified commerce strategy.

  • Streamlined Inventory Management: Unified commerce enables real-time visibility into inventory across all channels. This helps businesses optimize product distribution, reduce costs and efficiently manage last mile delivery, leading to increased profitability.
  • Increased Sales: This approach simplifies the buying process, making it easier for customers to engage with brands across different channels. Additionally, the data collected can be leveraged to improve marketing and promotional campaigns, further boosting sales.
  • Accurate Forecasting: With access to comprehensive data, businesses can make more precise predictions about customer behavior. This enables effective promotions, sales strategies and improvements in procurement and distribution practices.
  • Reduced Errors: Unified commerce integrates various systems into a single platform with minimal manual data entry, reducing the likelihood of errors. This helps save costs and enhance operational efficiency.
  • Automated Processes: By centralizing and automating critical business processes, unified commerce saves time and increases employee productivity. This allows staff to focus on tasks directly contributing to revenue generation and customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: At its core, unified commerce is about customer-centricity. It enables a seamless and personalized shopping experience by integrating data and channels. This provides customers with flexibility and convenience, while allowing merchants to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior.

Challenges in Unified Commerce Implementation

Transitioning to a unified commerce strategy requires a meticulous omnichannel execution path that streamlines retail operations. This includes processes for planning, brand management, marketing, point of sale, fulfillment and customer support. These steps ensure a seamless customer journey, but moving from an omnichannel to a unified commerce approach presents significant challenges, primarily from integration issues and information accessibility.

Outdated legacy systems often stand as the biggest obstacle in transitioning to a unified commerce solution, creating three notable challenges:

  • Initial Investment: Integrating legacy systems like OMS, WMS, ERP and TMS into a cohesive unified model is a significant undertaking that likely requires substantial upfront investment. This is essential for ensuring a smooth transition with minimal disruption to retail operations.
  • Change Management: Transitioning from an omnichannel model requires an overhaul of existing systems and processes. This may necessitate strategic coordination and greater collaboration among teams that previously operated in silos, putting a strain on human resources and department heads.  
  • Data Security: Sharing data across internal departments and external vendors can pose risks to the security of customer information. Implementing robust security measures like antivirus programs, firewalls, encryption and data protection is crucial. Establishing strict access protocols for different data sources is vital to safeguarding sensitive information.

Recognizing the potential benefits and inherent challenges of transitioning to unified commerce is a crucial step in effectively leveraging this new retail paradigm. As we navigate this evolution, the power of orchestration emerges as a key tool to surmount these challenges, optimize benefits and unlock the transformative potential of unified commerce.

The Role of Orchestration in Unified Commerce

Orchestration in unified commerce involves tactical coordination and integration of various business components, including inventory management, order fulfillment, last mile delivery and customer service. This strategic orchestration is vital to delivering a seamless customer experience, as it ensures all elements of the retail ecosystem work in harmony.

Unified commerce achieves this cohesion through a single integrated platform that centralizes data and streamlines processes. This approach reduces redundancies to improve operational efficiency, while delivering a seamless customer experience across all channels. With all data and processes under one roof, businesses can keep a finger on the pulse of inventory levels, customer preferences and other critical aspects, leading to simplified fulfillment processes that meet the dynamic demands of modern retail.

Last Mile Excellence: Pivotal in Unified Commerce Strategy

Today’s customers demand product quality, exceptional service and a frictionless purchasing journey. Last mile delivery is crucial in fulfilling these expectations. It encompasses transportation, routing, courier selection, and dynamic data-driven strategies. Last mile orchestration solutions enhance modern retail strategies by streamlining logistics through automation to control costs and improve operational efficiencies.

Key components of last mile excellence in a unified commerce strategy include:

  • Optimized carrier selection through automated rate shopping tools ensure a swift comparison of transportation options. 
  • Delivery order automation accelerates the tendering and dispatch process, saving valuable time and allowing logistics teams to focus on strategic tasks. 
  • Enhanced visibility through real-time delivery tracking keeps retailers and customers informed.
  • Proactive exceptions management swiftly addresses potential issues before they affect the customer experience. 

These elements are instrumental in not only meeting customer expectations, but also in optimizing operations that support the holistic unified commerce model.

Unlock Excellence with OneRail: Your Partner in Unified Commerce Orchestration

The interdependence of customer satisfaction, brand credibility and business growth hinges on retail execution. Excellence in unified commerce orchestration, coupled with last mile delivery, is non-negotiable. In an ever-competitive market, companies must embrace cutting-edge solutions that employ technology to master last mile logistics and create flawless customer experiences.

OneRail’s comprehensive orchestration solution specifically addresses the challenges of unified commerce. Boasting an array of automation capabilities and data-enriched features, OneRail equips businesses with the necessary tools to streamline processes, curtail costs and surpass customer expectations.

Elevate your business to new heights of last mile delivery excellence as well as omnichannel and unified commerce orchestration. Book a demo with OneRail today.

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