Retail: How does 'unified commerce' rethink the customer journey and payment experience?

  • 16.07.2021

With the rise of digital technology, online commerce is becoming increasingly commonplace. The health crisis has further accelerated the phenomenon, made possible by the rapid development of online payment methods. A new stage in the progression from multichannel to omnichannel, unified commerce offers a comprehensive customer journey, for a new relationship between customer and merchant. Neil Pein, Global Head of Axepta BNP Paribas Group and Head of Payments Transformation for the BNP Paribas Group, explains this trend.

From multi-channel to unified commerce: the customer at the centre of the experience and the journey 

The world of payments is moving... And it’s moving very fast, in line with the upheavals and expectations brought about by the development of online commerce, as confirmed by Neil Pein, Head of Axepta BNP Paribas Group when he spoke at the VivaTech 2021 trade show

Neil Pein - Commerce unifié AXEPTA BNP Paribas

Payment: three major trends

Neil Pein sees three major trends underlying the current revolution: “First of all, there is the fact that instant payment technologies have reached maturity, to the point that immediacy is now a prerequisite, a real consumer expectation. Then there is the disappearance of the act of payment, which is becoming invisible, especially with the development of digital and the omnipresence of the smartphone, which makes a more homogeneous customer experience possible.

Finally, the regulatory framework, in favour of Open Banking, encourages innovation and the emergence of new services and new players, led by fintechs”.

The act of payment, a key point in the customer relationship 

It is in this context that the boundary between “in-store” and e-commerce, between offline and online, is tending to disappear. The challenge for retailers is no longer to maintain a customer relationship via different channels such as a local shop and an e-commerce site, but to rethink the experience with the customer as the central actor and no longer around the purchasing channel. “This is the promise of unified commerce,” confirms Neil Pein, “to create a new global customer journey, that enables the retailer to find customers and service their needs, irrespective of the channel used.” This paradigm shift, whereby the act of payment becomes the key point of the customer relationship, “makes life easier for customers and improves the performance of merchants,” he says. In short, a real virtuous circle. 

Commerce unifié AXEPTA BNP Paribas

Rethinking and combining shopping experiences

With the rapid development of e-commerce, most merchants need to find new reasons to bring customers into their shops. In the shop, the “customer experience” must be practical and rethought within the framework of mixed and unified uses, where the customer has been on the website before, and can return to after, or even during, the in-store experience. “Click & Collect, which has developed during the successive lockdowns, while at the same time creating meaning because it creates a value-added, personalised touch point between a customer and an advisor,” illustrates Neil Pein. 

A “value-added and personalised” touch point? Yes, if the payment method is used as a touch point for the unified experience: “By identifying customers by their payment method, and combining the online and offline shopping experience, retailers can turn these touch points into opportunities to meet with customers and build the customer relationship”.  

Payment is at the heart of the relationship between the bank and its clients, whether they are individuals or merchants and businesses


Evolve and co-innovate to ensure connectivity of all systems  

On the technical side, unified commerce requires the integration of many systems and connectivity between payment tools, logistics systems and merchant sites. This is the way to achieve “unification”. “For example, by connecting their Axepta terminals to their inventory solutions, retailers can place orders for customers on the spot, which is like integrating their e-commerce site into their shop,” adds Neil Pein. 

Axepta BNP Paribas

Axepta BNP Paribas, is an integrated payment solution for entering unified commerce.

More and more merchants want to sell on the internet and so they need to find a payment solution. Axepta BNP Paribas is a BNP Paribas Group offer that meets this need. A variety of payment methods and modes - with electronic payment terminals for mobile use -, enhanced transaction security, management and transaction monitoring tools, etc. The offer is intended to evolve and to be comprehensive in order to support professionals in developing their business. 


“The Axepta BNP Paribas platform aims to facilitate the transformation of companies and bring them into the era of unified commerce. Irrespective of the sales channels and payment methods, management and monitoring are handled from a single back office. Practicality, flexibility and ease of implementation are the strengths of this new solution. Axepta BNP Paribas also has a team of experts who are available to advise and support customers” says Armelle Guerbe, head of the E-commerce division of the BNP Paribas Payments and Cash Management Department in France.

Managing this multitude of systems requires the ability to form reliable partnerships of a new kind - a co-innovation approach which was essential to the creation of Axepta BNP Paribas. In the era of open banking, BNP Paribas is focusing on co-innovation with the fintech sector. Unified commerce thus also prefigures a change in the role of banking players, particularly with regard to their corporate customers, by becoming directly involved in improving their performance and by working with them in an increasingly direct and unified manner. Unified commerce is definitely aptly named.

A concrete example: Axepta BNP Paribas with the French Tennis Federation (FFT), implemented in the Roland Garros boutique

Roland Garros... its clay courts, its green tarpaulins, its Spanish players... and its shops where you can buy goodies and souvenirs, of course. For the reopening of the competition in 2021, the FFT wanted to improve the experience in the “village” of white tents, as confirmed by Stéphane Morel, its Deputy General Manager: “New technologies and digitalisation enable us to offer a transformed and simplified customer experience which I’m proud to have implemented with BNP Paribas, our partner for 50 years, thanks to the Axepta offer.” 

Commerce unifié AXEPTA BNP Paribas Boutique Roland Garros
Roland Garros boutique- Paris - @FFT Christophe Guibbaud - Credits: @ChristopheGuibbaud

So, what does unified commerce serve up? A renewed customer experience in the FFT megastore and in the online shops. “The sales staff, without a cash register, give advice in the aisles and collect payment for purchases using the latest generation of contactless, mobile and secure payment terminals. This innovation makes it possible for the first time to link a payment terminal with an application managing the product catalogue, stock, delivery and of course payment. It personalises the service, both online and in-store. As a highlight, customers can even arrange home delivery of their purchases or Click&Collect...”. Handy when you’ve fallen for a pair of deckchairs stamped “RG” and there are still matches you want to watch!  



Photos credits : @mavoimages, @Monkey Business, @ipopba, @memyjo

Read more

All news