The sixth annual Demandware North American XChange Conference wrapped up this week, with more than 1,400 attendees. There are too many insights to impart in a single blog post – we’ll dive in with more articles and insights from retailers in the coming weeks – but here are five initial takeaways from Demandware’s biggest XChange conference yet.

You Will Lose if you Don’t Empower Store Associates

The reality in retail today is that associates are the face of your brand and, along with technology, are a key component in bridging the gap between online and offline commerce. Some innovative retailers are taking big steps to transform the store environment. Some examples: True Religion’s Apple Watch endless aisle app, which lets associates scan inventory and beam the product onto a large interactive in-store display; Party City mobile apps (see below) that alert associates in real time to inventory needs; vineyard vines founders Shep and Ian Murray, acknowledging that stores are where customers come to experience their brand, giving their associates the latitude to do whatever it takes to keep customers happy.

(Demandware will introduce Demandware Store later this year, which will thoroughly modernize and digitize stores and empower associates)

Huge Interest in Buy Buttons/Distributed Commerce

If the standing-room-only session on Pinterest Buyable Pins was any indication, retailers are clamoring to extend commerce to wherever their customers engage with their brand. In fact, time expired before all the crowd’s questions were answered. Retailers wanted to know about managing merchandising, pricing and inventory and data feeds; how retailers decide which products to sell; how to handle returns and shipping; promotions and sponsored pins. Pinterest’s Tiffany Black shared that the company will enable multi-item SKU shopping in the next few months. Currently, Pinners can only cart one item at a time.

Your Customer Owns the Terms of Engagement 

It’s no secret that customers are dictating the terms of engagement, at every step in the process. Retailers that don’t adapt, with business processes and technology that enables them to deliver experiences customers want, will find their customers clicking and tapping over to those that do. One very large retailer shared plans to soon launch scheduled fulfillment, where shoppers choose a short delivery window within a seven-day period. Party City will soon offer customers an online and in-store build-your-own balloon boutique, along with scheduled pickup.

The Importance of Site Search and SEO Can’t be Overstated

What good are your promotions and products if consumers can’t find them? What if your customers search for your products in ways you didn’t anticipate? One large retailer warned against taking an inside-out approach, and advised peers to actually listen to the way customers talk about your products and tailor search accordingly – for example, if more customers search for ”sweater” versus “sweatshirt.” Another retailer, a very fast-growing brand, told of a big drop in traffic when it changed its search term from “plus size” to “extended size” even though research showed that buyers disdained the “plus size” moniker.

At the Heart of All This…Unified Commerce

Most retailers acknowledge the need to simplify, modernize and unify systems to deliver the relevant experiences that consumers demand. The problem, as summarized by Party City CIO Steve Skiba, is that “With omnichannel you have all these channels, but not one piece of software to manage it all. That’s why all of us want to get to unified commerce quickly.” An integrated enterprise cloud commerce platform, not built on a suite of disparate applications but rather a dynamic foundation whose hallmark is flexibility, helps retailers deliver on this promise.

That goes for the store, where Demandware will deliver point-of-sale that is continually upgradeable and customizable, just like Demandware Commerce.