IRCE 2017 recap: Omnichannel, personalization, and how Microsoft Dynamics 365 answers both demands

By:  Greg Williams

Two of the most talked-about topics at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE 2017) in Chicago last week were personalization and omnichannel.

Retail executives understand that they need to provide a consistent brand and buying experience from the store to the website to catalog and beyond, but they are not sure which retail solutions will get them there.

At Western Computer, we see Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations as a natural solution to enable both personalization and omnichannel.

First – retailers can create promotions, special rebates, or other pricing scenarios. Then, they can set these agreements in ERP, and offer them to customers – in store, from the website, or through mobile.

We also know that customers are increasingly impatient; they want the product in their hands as soon as possible. Customers will do their product research and look online for who has stock. Next, they may use a location finder to find a nearby store with inventory. Retailers can create competitive advantage with their brick-and-mortar stores over online-only competitors by marketing their stores as a convenient way to pick up products the same day and as an easy way to return goods. Delivering on this scenario requires real-time integration between the e-commerce system and ERP at a detailed level, which Dynamics 365 enables.

Of course, Dynamics 365 also includes call center capabilities, which is another critical requirement for delivering personalized service. Customer service agents need to access a 360-degree view of the customer. They also need the ability to view previous calls, complaints, as well as shopping and browsing history. Essentially, customer service agents have all the information they need to see everything about the customer and respond appropriately. Sales reps can also assist customers from a tablet on the shop floor to help them drive upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

When Dynamics 365 customers begin using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, previous buyer behavior (or the behavior of similar buyers) is analyzed, and product recommendations can be delivered automatically. As Machine Learning accesses more and more data, it will continue to optimize these recommendations over time. This scenario is only made possible through the power of the cloud. In the past, on-premise ERP servers were built to manage transactions but did not have the advantages of computing power at scale. This scale is what enables Machine Learning analytics to be possible.


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Omnichannel = faster, more efficient orders

The transformation happening in retail is, perhaps, most significant when we dive into omnichannel. In the past, many retailers ran their e-commerce business almost like a separate company with separate order systems and different fulfillment centers. Now, retailers are focused on an “e-commerce-first” approach using their stores as a differentiator.

Dynamics 365 enables omnichannel in many different ways, but all are built on the fact that you have one database with a robust e-commerce environment integrated to access the data in real-time.

One of the important omnichannel scenarios that Dynamics 365 makes possible is order fulfillment. Analysts tell us that if you can ship a product to a customer faster and more reliably that your competitors, you can drive a higher reorder rate. With Dynamics 365, you can deliver faster and more efficient ways to fulfill. Starting from Warehouse Management to shipping to automated communications through email that gives customers real-time order status. Also, Azure Machine Learning can, again, be harnessed for demand and inventory forecasting so that retailers can drive higher profitability by maintaining leaner inventory levels.

As we head home from another great year at IRCE, we will be excited to dive into these trends and help customers implement Microsoft Dynamics to get them started.

About Greg Williams

Greg Williams leads the Dynamics practice at Western Computer. With over 15 years experience leading ERP implementations, Greg is focused on aligning Western’s product and services offerings with the needs of Western’s current and prospective customers.