The retail industry has undergone major changes over the years but the magnitude of these changes was never so pronounced before the world got hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the ensuing restrictions and lasting changes in consumer behavior, many retailers are realizing the potential of digital commerce and expanding new sales channels to stay afloat in these unprecedented times. This has resulted in retail businesses opting to implement eCommerce solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce.
The success of Microsoft’s cloud and business application ecosystem is quite apparent from the year-on-year growth of its Azure and Dynamics 365 platforms resulting from high adoption from new customers. The company has expanded its Dynamics 365 suite of business applications with an eCommerce platform – Dynamics 365 Commerce – which equips emerging as well as established players in the B2C/B2B eCommerce space with implementation options tailored to their business needs.
Challenges faced by eCommerce today
It’s important to note here that the retail industry has been undergoing a shift to digital commerce for many years. The pandemic propelled digital commerce to becoming the primary customer buying channel for many organizations. Worldwide eCommerce retail sales amounted to $4.28 trillion in 2020, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to $5.4 trillion in 2022. Moreover, e-retail sales accounted for 18% of all retail sales worldwide in 2020, with the figure expected to reach 21.8% in 2024.
This shift has enhanced the dynamism in the eCommerce landscape across countries and has expanded its scope to new firms, consumer segments, and product types. Consumers now have access to a variety of products from the convenience and safety of their homes, and firms are continuing operations despite social distancing measures and contact restrictions. But new trends and innovations are also bringing in new challenges, such as:
- Delivery of consistent and personalized services across different touchpoints
- Inventory optimization and accuracy as a result of increased demand
- Access to the right information at the right time to meet customer expectations
- The need to equip today’s younger and more technical workforce with the right tools
- Ensuring strong data security
Fighting back the retail ruckus with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce
The needs of retail businesses are increasingly evolving and no eCommerce platform delivers out-of-the-box capabilities that perfectly fulfill them. Microsoft is equipping retail businesses to overcome the industry’s challenges with Dynamics 365 Commerce – its comprehensive cloud-hosted omnichannel solution that unifies back-office, in-store, and digital experiences to deliver personalized customer experiences, increase employee productivity, optimize operations, and deliver better business outcomes. It includes sales, mobility, intelligence, and productivity to help retailers excel in a cloud-first, mobile-first arena.
Here are the key highlights of this solution:
Previously named Dynamics 365 Retail, the shift to ‘Commerce’ was more than a name change. The omnichannel capabilities of the new update unify back-office, in-store, call center, and website experiences. By analyzing customer movement and product status, the Dynamics 365 Connected Store enables retailers to gain real-time observational data to enhance in-store performance.
Flexibility without complication
Dynamics 365 Commerce allows deployment in the Microsoft-managed SaaS model. Customizations and/or extensions can easily be added without impacting the core product. Moreover, Microsoft AppSource, the company’s online app store for business applications, offers an expansive range of Partner Add-ons for prebuilt modules to be integrated and used on top of the Microsoft D365 Commerce platform to further enhance its capabilities.
Value for money
Because it is cloud-based, Dynamics 365 Commerce offers faster implementation and low setup costs. Moreover, the licensing model is based on the number of expected transactions. Microsoft continuously rolls out new feature updates which can be incorporated into the customer tenant, adding to the value over time.
Dynamics 365 Commerce delivers advanced analytics for heatmap generation, sales channels, and performance management with data visualization capabilities to enable timely and informed decisions. Analytics provide optimized insights and aid in delivering data-driven forecasts, which help in understanding customer preferences and tailoring your offerings accordingly.
Support for cloud deployment and automatic updates enables Dynamics 365 Commerce to maintain best-in-class security. Microsoft Compliance and Trust Center ensures the highest level of security compliance and offers a centralized platform that safeguards against the evolving cyber threats to let the business focus on generating customer value and boosting operational efficiency rather than managing infrastructure. Add-ons like the Fraud Protection module within Dynamics 365 Commerce allow merchants to keep a watchful eye on all the transactions, as well as accept or reject them based on the determined fraud score.
Dynamics 365 Commerce takes full advantage of the Microsoft technology and solution ecosystem and integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft Dynamics solutions as well as Office 365, Azure, and Power BI. These integrations and data sharing across Dynamics 365 Business Applications are supported through a common shared data service. Moreover, a robust content management system integrates directly into the eCommerce platform. The combined power of this entire ecosystem allows you to analyze customer preferences and deliver personalized and seamless experiences across different channels.
Partner network support
With Microsoft D365 Commerce, you also gain access to Microsoft’s network of partner companies and products for expertise and capabilities to get the best out of your eCommerce solution. Microsoft channel partners work in conjunction with Microsoft to resell their products and services, often tailoring them to individual customer needs. Additionally, many Microsoft channel partners also offer implementation services.
Easy to implement, use, and maintain
The platform can be deployed quickly in the cloud and provides templates for setting up data and processes unique to your organization. Its user-friendly interface makes performing complex tasks simple. For instance, inventory forecasting can be done in Microsoft Excel and then synced with Dynamics 365 Commerce with Microsoft’s end-to-end integration. Upgrading is also hassle-free as it can be done simultaneously across all accounts to ensure that your employees continue to work without any disruption, and with up-to-date functionality.
B2B commerce is evolving. According to data from Statista, global retail eCommerce sales for B2B are expected to reach $1.1 trillion in 2021. Building on the existing B2C eCommerce capabilities, Microsoft is also bringing B2B eCommerce to the D365 Commerce platform. These capabilities will enable organizations in varied industry segments to digitize their B2B transactions with personalized, user-friendly, and self-serve-driven B2C eCommerce-like experiences. The new B2B capabilities will include account-based promotions, partner management, tools to improve B2B account relations, distributed order management, self-service purchasing, and AI & ML-powered tools for product recommendations.
Future-proof your eCommerce strategy with Dynamics 365 Commerce and Visionet
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce offers today’s retailers the ability to deliver impeccable omnichannel customer experiences and achieve successful business outcomes. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, our team has been part of the D365 Commerce journey since its private preview. With this combination of our deep expertise and accelerators and enhancers, we’ve devised Catapult – our customized, multi-tier digital commerce implementation methodology designed to enable rapid Dynamics 365 Commerce adoption. Brands like M&S have trusted our approach to quickly reimagine their direct-to-consumer eCommerce experience. Catapult has also garnered us recognition by Microsoft as a finalist for the Dynamics 365 Commerce Partner of the Year Award 2021.
Rethink retail for the new era
Research predicts that by 2022, organizations using multiple go-to-market approaches for digital commerce will outperform non-commerce organizations by 30 percentage points in sales growth. As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, new behavioral patterns and experiences learned during this crisis will leave an indelible mark on us. Even if we no longer need masks in the future, we’ll continue to take advantage of the convenience brought forth by digital commerce. This alone makes digital commerce to be an integral part of the retail business strategy.
Get in touch with our experts to know how you can rethink retail by enabling incredible cross-channel digital buying experiences with Catapult.