Retail is incredibly multifaceted; retailers must juggle operations, inventory merchandising, and staffing, keep a watchful eye on performance, and operate across multiple channels, all while putting customer experience at the forefront of everything they do.
To be able to compete, retailers have to offer dependable service across brick and mortar locations, call centers, kiosk, and e-commerce and mobile platforms.
Finding a holistic solution that not only manages but unifies front and back operations, and optimizes every area of the retail life cycle sounds like asking a lot.
Let’s take a look at how Dynamics 365 for Retail can help businesses rise to the top in the face of the challenges of modern retail.
With customers using numerous touchpoints to browse, purchase products, and interact with retailers, businesses need to have a system which allows users to marry and manage every avenue of their operations to create seamless experiences for their customers.
According to a 2017 report by UPS, 43% of retail purchases are researched and completed entirely online, with a further 36% of sales going through multiple channels, for example being reviewed online and bought in-store, or vice versa.
Dynamics 365 for Retail promises to help users deliver a consistently outstanding experience for shoppers across stores, web, mobile, and contact centers by creating a familiar, reliable cross-channel platform through which customers can buy anywhere, and collect anywhere. This multi-platform mobility is essential for retailers to thrive in the era of modern retail, according to Eleanor Walsh, Regional Sales Manager for UK and Ireland at Sana Commerce.
“We expect Industry 4.0 will see an increased focus on the importance of mobile-optimized sites,” Walsh says. “Google already prioritizes sites with responsive design for mobile and we expect this trend to only become more prominent in the B2B space, possibly even lessening the gap between mobile sites and apps altogether.”
The app also aims to give customers flexibility and freedom beyond the checkout, allowing them to locate items saved online in stores, collect orders from alternative locations, or arrange home delivery with Retail’s optimized ordering and fulfilment features.
Being able to deliver a compelling, consistent service across multiple channels has proven extremely valuable when it comes to customer retention; research by Aberdeen Group found that companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain around 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel engagement.
Each facet of your retail business can be as unified or as individual as you need it to be; locations can have their own payment methods, delivery methods, pricing, discounts and expense accounts.
No matter how you choose to divide up your retail channels, you can be assured that every avenue will always be accurate, with inventory counts updated in real-time.
This centralization of processes can have a massively positive impact on retailers’ productivity. “Dynamics 365 for Retail enables retailers to simplify and manage the sales process from one platform,” says Walsh. “Employees can use the platform to collaborate and coordinate key processes, and product demand and stock visibility can be managed through comprehensive operational insights.”
Customer experience management
With so many options available, and so many businesses vying for their attention (and their cash) consumers have more than a modicum of power in the modern retail industry. Busy customers want personalized experiences, and they want to feel valued by the businesses they’re patronizing.
Couple those expectations with the fact that due to a vast array of choices at their disposal, customer loyalty is not as easy to maintain as perhaps it used to be, and the need for businesses to have a robust strategy in place to meet these growing expectations is clear.
It’s easier than ever for unhappy customers to voice their dissatisfaction in the public arena, and increasingly more challenging to turn one-time customers into long-term buyers, and create organic brand ambassadors.
Engagement must be consistent across a range of touchpoints, and these touchpoints must all integrate to create a seamless shopping experience, or retailers risk facing a lot of “abandoned carts”.
Being able to offer a personalized experience is what sets brands apart from their competitors, with adopters of machine-learning technology and AI already making strides ahead in customer engagement.
With Dynamics 365, retailers can offer a truly unified experience, using tools like brand apps that allow customers to to browse a retailer’s catalog easily, and can also show the customer personalized recommendations based on previous purchases and wishlist items. This custom experience is enabled by the app’s comprehensive customer profile, built on a foundation of notable trends, behaviors, desires, and buying habits pulled from customer data.
“As customer expectations and demands continue to rise and online competition increases, retailers need to do more than simply offer the best deal,” Walsh warns. “Dynamics 365 for Retail provides easy access to customer information and generates real-time reports so businesses can make informed decisions on customer behaviors and respond quickly to changing market demands. Retailers should not only aim to keep pace with buying trends, but also be able to make suggestions and predictions for customers using data and intelligence they hold in the ERP.”
Customer activity data can be used to offer tailored promotions when in the vicinity of a brick-and-mortar location, or even let the customer know that an item on their wish-list is in stock, or on offer. Use of these so-called “beacons” in retail has been shown to increase the likelihood of a purchase being made by as much as 73%.
On the other side of Dynamics 365, the sales associate can look up details not only about a product a customer may be interested in, but also get information about purchases the customer has made previously, and items on their wish lists, to generate more opportunities to cross-sell.
The sales associate can also use the system to check inventory at other stores, order items in for the customer to collect, or arrange delivery to another address.
The app also features core customer loyalty features, such as the ability for customers to earn and redeem points, use gift cards, and redeem promotional coupons across every channel your business operates in.
Dynamics 365 for Retail provides personalized experiences not only for customers, but also employees. Organizational structure can be clearly illustrated by designating departments, jobs, positions, and reporting responsibilities.
The app also empowers employees by giving them access to a self-service portal through which they can view assigned tasks, responsibilities, and schedules. Employees can also arrange shift swaps and covers directly.
Simple deployment and updates
Thanks to e-commerce and mobile optimization, a retail business has to be open 24/7. A customer’s journey from browsing through to checkout should be as seamless as possible to prevent drop-offs, and downtime or disruptions to service can be enormously costly for retailers.
Dynamics 365 for Retail is built on and powered by the Microsoft cloud, so not only is it simpler to deploy than your typical, locally-hosted ERP systems, but it also benefits from the intelligence, flexibility, and speed that comes with cloud computing.
One of the biggest advantages of using Dynamics 365 in the cloud is that the app will always be up to date; no downloading updates or patches for every machine on which you’re using the program. Microsoft rolls out updates for Dynamics 365 automatically, with minor fixes every month, and more-significant feature updates and additions twice a year.
Integrated Point of Sale system
“Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a specific retail module for point of sale,” explains Walsh, “which enables retailers to centrally manage their merchandising, inventory and channel management processes.” This integrated Point of Sale (POS) system that can be operated on-premise (mPOS), or through the cloud (cPOS) via a wide range of devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, across Windows, iOS, Android, and in web browsers. Both deployment options offer a range of interfaces to help users manage a variety of business scenarios.
Everything about Dynamics 365 for Retail is designed to keep your store running smoothly, make processes more efficient, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
To help your team keep track of and prioritize their duties, tasks such as assisting customers, processing transactions, or performing stock counts can be delegated through the mPOS app on any device. Store associates will then be notified of their assignments, and can also receive automated notifications when other areas require attention, like when an order arrives, or a product needs restocking.