As we approach Euroshop here in Dusseldorf and understand its great significance for the Retail Industry, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the state of retail today and how organizations face an environment offering ever-expanding opportunity while also posing unprecedented challenges.  Retailers have more channels to reach their customers and grow globally, but they must also serve an empowered consumer with access to more information and choice—forcing retailers to leverage IT in an entirely different way to drive visibility across the organization to react quickly; seize new opportunities; and build customer loyalty. Finally, retailers must find new ways to make their most valuable asset—people—more productive to enable a “Connected Experience for Retail.”

Today’s consumers leverage the smartphones they carry; friends on Facebook; and connections on Twitter are only a few of the tools driving this digitally empowered, well informed, and socially conscious environment.  Consumers are therefore demanding a consistent, convenient, end-to-end shopping experience in return for their business. For retailers, meeting and exceeding this demand is all about customer-centricity: delivering connected experiences that foster lasting relationships with their customers and set them apart from the competition.  This, however, must be about more than just messaging. Retail IT vendors must offer solutions with the innovation, technology, architecture, and flexibility to truly allow retailers to become dynamics.

The Microsoft vision is to empower retailers to become connected: connecting people, insight, and customer relationships to deliver innovative, cost-effective solutions and capabilities that resonate with consumers and suppliers, and lead to rich, lasting customer relationships.  

Connected Retail Experience

Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail has been designed to help realize our vision.  At the heart of this is a solution that offers point of sale, store & inventory management, merchandising, ERP and more with a consistent data model & business rules; out of the box integration – both real-time and scheduled – to reduce complexity; and role-based user interfaces to make the retailers most valuable asset – people – more productive. 

This allows retailers to use IT to create an end-to-end shopping experience, gain insight into all areas of the business and turn customer interactions into customer relationship enhancement opportunities.  Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail allows retailers to make the critical connection of subsidiaries, divisions and stores to their headquarters’ solution in a flexible, scalable and cost-effective manner.  Focused on mid size and enterprise specialty retailers, the solution is differentiated in the implementation flexibility it offers, helping to drive investment protection to retailers. Retailers benefit from being able to deploy it as an end-to-end solution out of the box, or can use it in a ‘two tier' scenario, which means they aren’t forced to remove applications if the timing is not right - they can add functionality in concert with their existing infrastructure. Our software has been built specifically to be very adaptable and to provide the kind of investment protection that retailers must have in today’s world – business needs will continue to change as will market influences.  Retailers know with Microsoft Dynamics AX for retail that their core platform will adapt, grow, and scale with them well for the long-term.  According to a recent RSR Research report by Brian Kilcourse,  report, as many as 84 per cent of respondents recognised that they do not have good integration and connectivity between stores, headquarters and the supply chain, preventing them from having the level of insight needed to move from a reactive retailer to a proactive retailer – one that can anticipate changes and stay ahead of the curve.  Dynamics AX for Retail is unique in the market with purpose built with out-of-the-box integration from the store to the headquarters, ERP and beyond – offering complete control of critical data flow across the organization including real-time customer updates, inventory lookup from the point of sale and more. This is why today’s retailer needs more than a list of features from IT. They need a powerful, extensible architecture that will allow them to truly be a ‘dynamic’ business to deliver that sought after multi-channel  experience for the consumer.

Take the example of China Horizon.  This group, chaired by the former CEO of Wal-Mart’s Store Division, Bill Fields, has a very ambitious project for bringing convenience stores to rural China.  With around 25 stores in operation today, China Horizon has chosen Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail to enable its business operations and to facilitate the rapid expansion planned over the next three years.  The company anticipates seeing more than 10 000 stores in place across the country and another several thousand franchises.  With such rapid expansion planned and in areas where many of the personnel have no prior technology experience other than with a calculator;  powerful, extensible architecture to cope with efficient scaling and the ease of use of the technology for all users were obviously key criteria.

A key tenant of Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is allowing retailers to create role-based user experiences.  In fact, the role-based aspect of Dynamics AX for Retail is a key differentiator from other solutions out there. This capability allows the retailer to define as many roles as it likes in the organisation, and in each of these roles determine specific security settings; look and feel; and functionality. This allows you to optimise the software and simplify the UI in a way that helps drive the greatest productivity of your people and organisation. 

Connected information about the customer and the organization helps guarantee meaningful customer engagement that drives loyalty.  New technologies have revolutionised the way shoppers discover, engage with and purchase products. Now, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is helping allow retailers to meet customer demands and provide truly connected experiences across channels – experiences that are personalised by clear visibility to customer interactions, comparative store analyses, financial results, and supply chain data.  And – the most critical piece – the experiences are facilitated by connected sales and service personnel who have been transformed into customer relationship agents, equipped to drive greater value for both shoppers and the business.

Customer Centricity

I have talked about connecting insight, people and customers to facilitate long lasting customer relationships.  With all of the valuable insight an organization can gain with a connected solution, many don’t take advantage of executing on that data to generate traffic, convert customers and increase basket size.  An additional component to the Microsoft Connected Retail story is Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  This powerful solution can take the important details captured about customers through a connected relationship and use them to help take personalization, differentiation, and loyalty to the next level.  With a tool like CRM you can take the important foundation of customer visibility and purchase history to the next level of targeted promotions; digital marketing; and full clientelling – where every aspect of the customer experience can be optimized – from details of favorite designer and style to reminders of an anniversary or birthday – to drive increased basket size and long-term loyalty.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM can work in powerful concert with other Microsoft technologies to enable this type of proactive retailing, and there is a strong ecosystem of Microsoft partners who are extending the CRM platform to do just that.  Partners like Retaligent with their clientelling solution “Charisma” as well as the digital marketing solution provided by Avanade.   Such solutions will become the next frontier in terms of how retailers will compete for customers and win in their respective verticals.

All Microsoft solutions as well as those partner solutions mentioned above – and more - will be available for you to see demonstrated on the showfloor at Euroshop. 

I look forward to welcoming you to our stand – N° 157 Halle 6

Michael Griffiths
Global Product Industry Director – Retail

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