A quick glance at this year’s Shop.org Digital Summit agenda tells you all you need to know about where retail is headed.

There are many sessions – the show runs Oct. 5-7 in Philadelphia – focused not on the technology enabling digital commerce, but on the application of the technology to improve the shopping experience and engagement with shoppers. It’s easy to see why this is the case. In today’s environment, retailers will compete (and win) based not on price but on the quality of the experience they deliver to their customers.

This is something we call the Democratization of Retail, and refers to the almost complete shift in the balance of power from the retailer to the consumer.

The consumer decides when, where and how to discover and buy your products. To a degree, they have control over how your brand is perceived, via social media and user-generated content. (One timely example of this: the recent announcement that Demandware will enable Twitter Buy Now buttons.) At the same time, what was once a linear shopping journey has turned into a complex path with multiple touchpoints – stores, mobile, search engines, etc. – before a purchase is made.

What’s a retailer to do?

What retailers need to do is become a connected brand. That means being ubiquitous (meeting customers wherever they are), contextual (understanding your shoppers’ behavior and adapting to it) and agile (responding dynamically to market changes).

That state of connectedness is best achieved by breaking down walls not only between you and your customer, but also among all sales channels. In fact, the rapid shift in shopping habits demands that retailers provide a unified experience to consumers regardless of where or how they shop. This is a step beyond omni-channel commerce and represents “unified commerce,” which provides a centralized platform for all channels – one platform for a single, consistent and accurate view of the customer.

Cloud commerce platforms enable retailers to more quickly expand and implement enhancements that directly benefit consumers in an increasingly democratized retail landscape. In a research report, L2 Research found that retailers using cloud platforms were more agile and grew faster than those on other platforms.

The most successful retail brands will leverage technology to engage with consumers on a deep level that capitalizes on, rather than is disadvantaged by, the democratization of commerce.

Consumers don’t care about the technology that’s behind their shopping experience and engagement with the retailer. They just want it to be easy, consistent across channels, informative and, importantly, relevant to their needs and tastes.

To that last point, leading retailers are investing in analytics technologies that help them deliver customized and timely information and promotions across channels to their customers. We are hard at work on this ourselves, developing predictive intelligence capabilities that empower retailers to establish a one-to-one connection with their customers.

One thing we do know in this age of the consumer is that many retailers are unwilling to compete on price, so they must compete on experience. A unified commerce platform, delivered in the cloud, empowers retailers to deliver experiences that today’s consumers expect, and helps them thrive in an era where consumers have more power and influence than ever.

If you’re going to Shop.org Oct. 5-7, I encourage you to stop by our booth (#707) to learn, among other things, how social media and other technologies are impacting retail commerce. We are happy to have a few clients, such as True Religion, Kate Spade and Cole Haan joining us. As a special treat, Godiva will be hand-dipping truffles for your enjoyment. See you there!