By Dave Hirst, UK Dynamics AX Product Marketing Manager I recently had the opportunity to spend a morning with representatives of some of the UK’s leading Retail brands and what an eye opening experience it was. Now not being a Retail specialist my views have been largely shaped by my own shopping experiences. However, what I failed to fully comprehend was the complexity of the business that gets the products into the store! What I also failed to truly understand is the seismic changes going on in the sector both in the UK and globally. It is very evident that Retailers are having to change – by their own admission I heard organisations confirm that they had so much to do but in a fiercely competitive environment where everything is a priority what do they actually prioritise? Take social media which is becoming a major component of their marketing activity – a statistic shared indicated that 65% of retailers using social media have limited understanding of how it tangibly impacts sales. Looking at their stores – given the advent of multi-channel strategies (or is it omni channel) in the modern environment how many stores are really required but given potential lease challenges exiting may not be as straightforward as would be liked if they have too much real estate. And then we get to the customer and the need to both understand and predict what they are buying today and want to buy tomorrow, whilst ensuring there is enough stock to meet demand but not too much as to have surplus stock tying up valuable cash – Retailers are continually balancing conflicting needs! When one considers the marketing, store management, stock control and customer sophistication all within an economy where disposable incomes are reduced, competition intense (both domestically and internationally) and customers are changing how they buy times really are changing. But how. Well interestingly I heard several examples. Stores are increasingly becoming warehouses where people either go to physically see items but then buy through another channel or have bought via another channel and then go to collect. In terms of stock where once there was shop stock and ecommerce stock , by way of illustration, there is a culture change underway where stock is now our stock not your retail stock and their ecommerce stock – sounds a straightforward change but the systems implications are significant. Finally, by way of an example customers no longer want to be viewed as part of a homogeneous segment – they want to be viewed as an individual and engaged as an individual, necessitating greater requirements for customisation and personalisation of offers based on the information they have provided through shopping habits and data happily shared. What underpins many of the elements above that are driving the change is the need to have a strong people culture enabled by high quality systems. The people side centres on delivering the most compelling customer experience possible whilst the technology is about enabling this experience to be delivered. Being able to support customers at the point of sale through devices that enable sales to be supported, ensuring invoicing is accurate and timely and having accurate stock levels that is warehoused efficiently and can be transported in a timely way all contribute to the experience. They all centre on being able to engage the customer and to run the business with the customer at the heart of all processes and decisions through having technology that is available where it is needed and has inherent flexibility and power to support the business in delivering on its promises. Ultimately it is about converting stock into cash as quickly as practically possible – but to do this necessitates supporting the customer through their engagement with an organisation not solely focusing on a single transaction. The recently launched Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 has the capability to support many of the challenges that Retailers are facing today around the retail chain: Plan-Buy-Make-Move-Sell. Take a look at the Preview document to understand more about how it can help organisations deliver an amazing customer experience or talk to one of our experts – details are here.