On a global level, the retail industry is in a state of flux. There are multiple forces at work making the industry a scene for perfect chaos.
Take, for instance, the downward spiraling of footfalls in US shopping malls. The declining footfall has even spiked the mall closure rate in North America by a staggering 40% (McKinsey).
At the same time, online commerce is thriving. E-retailers like Amazon and Alibaba are piling up billions in revenue that is more than the earnings of all brick-and-mortar brands put together. Their success in eCommerce has also inspired traditional retail players like Target, Walmart, etc. to step up their eCommerce game.
Needless to say, the retail industry is undergoing disruption. In this new age of retail, customer loyalty is fickle, customer experience trumps discounted prices, and technology is driving customer engagement. And speaking of technology, this is where Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 is solving the problems due to disruption.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce is an omnichannel retail solution. It brings together back-office operations, in-store experiences, call center management, while integrating online and offline shopping channels. With Dynamics 365 Commerce, Microsoft is ushering a new era of digital commerce which is far more intelligent and connected than ever before.
Why Microsoft Dynamics 365?
Why does the world need another digital commerce solution when there are umpteen ones already existing in the market? The answer lies in the way Microsoft is positioning its offerings.
Although it captured the world’s personal computer market, it missed the bus on the mobile market. It took a lot of brainstorming and market jostling for Microsoft to land on Cloud as its next strategic differentiator.
All the recent releases of Microsoft products are cloud-based. In fact, at the Future Decoded summit held in India, we saw how Microsoft is betting big on cloud and artificial intelligence (AI), or ‘intelligent cloud’. The company is aiming to make Azure, “the world’s computer”. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is positioned as an eCommerce solution that runs on the Azure cloud platform. It will not only strengthen Microsoft’s market position but will also enable its current customers to extend their utility out of Microsoft products.
Dynamics 365 and Azure are two platforms that are designed to work together. For retailers, this yields several intangible benefits.
Built for each other
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is hosted on Azure. Its integration enables users to seamlessly access all the data that is already hosted on other Microsoft applications. Azure also creates the right environment to deploy, manage, and build applications. Thanks to cloud hosting, the need to create, manage or maintain on-premise servers is also completely eliminated. The slashed implementation costs are definitely good news for retailers who are vying to cut corners wherever possible.
Seamless data access
Azure as a platform for Dynamic 365 offers complete data access. It also has specific access control features that allow users to restrict data access to specific users or roles. Also, Azure takes the responsibility of hosting the data on the cloud and also ensuring smooth access to it at all times. For retailers who are serious about choosing an omnichannel eCommerce platform that ensures data security, offers seamless access and also takes care of reporting, Dynamics 365 checks all the boxes.
When it comes to data security, Azure can be rightly compared to a digital fortress. It commands a reputation in the market for its encryption options and also for its long list of security compliances. In fact, Microsoft Azure has FedRAMP High Authorization Azure that ensures 18 data compliances and is also compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Since retail is one industry that captures maximum user data, these security provisions make Dynamics 365 a safe choice to make.
What does Microsoft Dynamics 365 offer?
According to Invespcro’s The State of Omnichannel Shopping infographic, companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies are able to retain 89% of their customers. Despite the massive adoption of eCommerce, 72% of customers still consider an in-store experience as the most important channel while making a purchase.
However, delivering an omnichannel experience is easier said than done. For retailers who have store presence spread across continents and a diverse product portfolio, things can get complicated. Migrating legacy systems to a digital commerce platform and running everyday operations while building customer loyalty is a tightrope walk across a canyon.
Dynamics 365 is built to make things easier for retailers, be it in the virtual realm of eCommerce or the physical reality of brick-and-mortar. Here is how.
Omnichannel customer engagement
Omnichannel has made customers used to innovative shopping models like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) and BISSTH (Buy In-Store Ship To Home). These shopping models offer convenience that is the best of both online and physical shopping. Even retail giants like Target have introduced a mobile app that merges online and brick-and-mortar operations. These digital commerce offerings allow Target store staff to create online orders for customers when local merchandise is unavailable (Tech Crunch).
Dynamics 365 enables retailers to offer all these omnichannel customer engagement models and much more. It allows retailers to set up customer journeys that would enable customers to buy what they want, when they want it, from wherever (online or offline) they want it.
Augment Customer loyalty
Most often, customer service reps, as well as store assistants, find themselves unable to help the customer. This is largely because they do not have the data required to provide contextual information. Dynamics 365 solves this problem. As a unified commerce platform, it gives a comprehensive view of every customer along with granular details of every interaction. This data enables the user to contextualize information as well as offer service that will augment customer loyalty.
End-to-end digital commerce management
In-store sales. Online selling. Delivery. Billing. Inventory management. And the endless other facets of eCommerce. Dynamics 365 manages it all. It can also scale as the business volumes grow dynamically. The underlying Azure platform ensures that scalability is a breeze without capacity issues. Furthermore, Dynamics 365 also allows retailers to manage their warehouses, manage product information, take care of fulfillment and even customer service.
Personalized shopping experiences
Amazon has shot to the top of eCommerce and cemented its position there with eCommerce personalization at its key strategy. Personalization is the act of providing personalized offers, product suggestions, newsfeed and even experiences that make the customer journey memorable. Retailers like Amazon use a ton of data like previous transactions, customer demographics, browsing behavior, etc. to personalize their offerings.
Dynamics 365 empowers retailers to go a step ahead in personalizing shopping experiences for customers. It can integrate 3D visuals and virtual reality components that make shopping more of an interactive experience for customers. (Natuzzi customer story)
Flexibility in operations
Retail is a dynamic sector where nothing remains constant. In fact, it is highly influenced by seasonal demand and supply forces. As a result, retailers have the desperate need to have a nimble digital commerce system that can change with the times. As a digital commerce platform, Dynamics 365 makes it possible for retailers to quickly update product information for new inventory without being bogged down by complicated system procedures.
How Dynamics 365 helps in delivering intelligent retail
Traditional retail suffered from restricted access to data. Analog processes, paperwork, and disorganized inventory management bogged down profitability for retailers. As a consequence, customer experience and engagement also suffered.
Thanks to digital commerce solutions like Dynamics 365, businesses can now leverage intelligent retail to their advantage. Intelligent retail works by empowering retailers with a host of tools and processes that will allow them to leverage data, web, mobile, and cloud for delivering superior customer experiences.
Let’s look at the many facets of how Microsoft Dynamics 365 makes it possible.
Create virtual storefronts quickly and easily with web authoring tools that require minimal coding.
Unified retail process
POS billing, inventory management, procurement, omnichannel customer service — all of this and much more baked into a single system easily accessible by all.
Digitization of manual processes that augments productivity, reduces errors and empowers employees to deliver better output.
Unified dashboards that give real-time information on store activity, customer journeys that give information on every precious customer interaction and analytic reports for data-driven decision-making.
Personalized web experiences
Web experiences that merge the best of online and offline web experiences based on user’s past browsing behaviors, purchases, and recorded preferences.
Dynamics 365 integrations
Dynamics 365 for retail integrates easily with other applications like Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Finance, and Power Platform. These integrations allow retailers to run operations like a single unit where data flows effortlessly without being restricted by silos.
Can Microsoft Dynamics 365 elevate customer experience?
Every retailer, irrespective of scale and location, is vying to deliver a better customer experience. Despite its advantages, omnichannel commerce makes it difficult to deliver a superior customer experience. There are process redundancies, data silos and operational bottlenecks that hamper customer experience.
Dynamics 365 has remedies to all these challenges. It empowers retailers to quickly migrate to a cloud-based digital commerce platform. It also accommodates hybrid-cloud infrastructure giving retailers the facility to continue using the existing legacy systems that they are heavily invested in.
Furthermore, Dynamics 365 leverages the power of data to enable retailers to make informed decisions. It gives deep insights into store operations, online store traffic, inventory levels and much more that simplifies retail operations management.
With Dynamics 365, store managers will have access to more intelligence that will allow them to craft unique customer journeys. Be it providing information to an in-store customer or attending to the query of an online customer’s order, it gives all the flexibility that one can ask for.
All of this makes Dynamics 365 a retailer’s go-to resource for delivering great customer experiences.