Francois van Splunder - Senior Product Marketing Manager, Commerce
Omnichannel has been around for more than a decade now, so it might be surprising to realize that there are still gaps in a strategy that has become table stakes for most retailers. The gap that does exist presents a lack of clarity about what omnichannel retail is and the inability of organizations to deliver on the strategy. With retail in the midst of one the largest transformations we have seen in decades, many organizations are trying to understand where to start bridging the gap between traditional and modern retail experiences. Microsoft Dynamics 365 brings together a unique set of capabilities and services that allow retailers to streamline buying experiences for customers across channels while empowering organizations to gain a deeper understanding and ownership of their sales, operations, and customer data.
Disconnected data disrupts the modern buying journey
The lack of unified data in a retailer’s current systems still proves to be a significant roadblock to providing omnichannel experiences to consumers. Like many retailers, the U.S. national retailer GNC, which specializes in health and nutrition-related products, also struggled with disconnected data across its systems. This meant, among other things, that GNC found it challenging to provide a single source of truth about its customers that would allow them to communicate efficiently and effectively. The siloed data affected customer communications, but it also kept the retailer from gaining real-time insights into things like customer preferences and inventory.
The ultimate solution for GNC and for any business looking to leverage data across systems is to use a single collection of data automatically updated across applications in real-time. This is one reason why GNC deployed Dynamics 365.
“With Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, we’re going to have a single, reliable view of each customer that updates in real-time…We’ll use the AI capabilities in Customer Insights to better define our customer segments and ensure that every customer gets the right communication at the right time.”—Lauren Mannetti, Vice President, Marketing, GNC.
Microsoft also continues to help retailers adjust to customer needs with tools like intuitive customer segmentation and experimentation capabilities. Dynamics 365 Commerce enables organizations to increase customer engagement and satisfaction by using tools in e-commerce site builder to target specific customer segments with different experiences based on the shopper’s device, geo-location, and other dynamically derived attributes from their browser request.
Regardless of the solution you choose, you need to be able to pinpoint a customer all the way through their journey, from browsing online to asking each customer for feedback. Increasingly, retailers will be tasked with offering ever-more personalized experiences—and that requires sophisticated and connected data that overcomes the limitation of siloed separate systems.
Complexity of legacy solutions
Many businesses have invested heavily in their current legacy solutions. Rightly so, most wish to maximize the benefit of these investments. Unfortunately, businesses can end up dealing with the complexity of their existing systems far longer than necessary as they attempt to avoid investing in a new unified solution. Sometimes, though, adding additional visibility and integration on top of existing solutions works well to address this problem without having to scrap the current systems being run for separate functions.
This is how Khaadi, a large Pakistani fashion retailer, figured out how to get its complex incumbent solutions to work together to keep operations going during the pandemic. It needed to be able to integrate data so that it could continue selling in-store inventory online during pandemic shutdowns.
To make this pivot, the company chose Microsoft Power Apps, which helps companies build custom apps that connect existing data, to create the brand’s integrated sales services in-house. Then, three months later, the company scaled the roll out ten times with the help of Dynamics 365 Commerce to make these capabilities—and more—part of its new operating norm.
“It’s incredible because we know of some similar retail businesses who started their omnichannel journey 14 to 15 months back but have not yet implemented similar capabilities.”—Muhammad Rehan Qadri, Chief Information Officer, Khaadi.
Using Microsoft Power Apps coupled with Dynamics 365 Commerce allowed the company to continue using its existing systems by allowing those systems to better “talk to each other” and leverage the data across them. This provides a solution that many other retailers can turn to make immediate use of their data that otherwise is isolated in separate systems—without replacing those systems.
Inability to adapt to changing customer habits
Another roadblock to providing omnichannel experiences is an inability to adapt to changing customer needs. This can result from a business that isn’t using the right technology to streamline operations and connect all of its data. The need to streamline backend operations is just as critical to customer experience when the goal is being able to adapt to rapidly changing customer behaviors and habits.
Now, more than ever, consumers seek out reviews and social proof before making a purchase. In fact, social commerce sales in the U.S. were an estimated $36.62 billion in 2021.1 It is not surprising then that businesses without the technology infrastructure required to connect these new sources of demand and customer intelligence may fall behind.
Dynamics 365 enables retailers to easily adjust and meet customers where they are through a common data model and a natively headless commerce engine. Easily connect with customers on new and emerging platforms to ensure your business stays competitive and relevant in an ever more competitive retail environment.
Along with this, it is essential for retailers to be able to automatically track reviews across platforms, monitor them, and automate the solicitation of reviews from customers through post-shipping emails and other such activities. Also, monitoring and identifying how specific customers respond to social storytelling requires deep data that connects across platforms. This is another area where Dynamics 365 Commerce can help.
Learn more in our recent blog, Exceed customer expectations with seamless and unified commerce experiences.
Increased demands and customer expectations
Consumers today understand that retailers can capture data of how, what, when, and where they make purchases. Not only do they understand this point, but they also expect it. This is one reason retailers face increased demands to understand consumers better and personalize experiences accordingly.
An area where customer expectations have evolved and increased is the desire for convenience. According to the National Retail Federation, 97 percent of consumers have backed out of a purchase because it was inconvenient to them.2 This can be seen by the popularity of curbside pickup, next-day delivery, and easy returns. Yet even though businesses can lose sales if they inconvenience consumers, many companies are still challenged to provide the options that customers have come to expect.
Retailers like Aubainerie are using Dynamics 365 to improve customer experience and personalize customer engagements across channels. The company’s apparel designers are using Dynamics 365 Commerce combined with Dynamics 365 Customer Insights to include more product information for staff and customers at the point of purchase. They are also able to fine-tune their understanding of customer needs to deliver more personal customer buying experiences and exceed customer expectations.
“We can designate activity filters in Dynamics 365 and then plan in advance for e-commerce and in-store displays based on those data points, which improves our omnichannel capabilities.”—Simon Jacobsen, Director of e-commerce, Aubainerie.
For companies to offer these convenience features to customers and meet the expectations for personalized and relevant shopping experiences, retailers can look to Dynamics 365 to help bridge the omnichannel gap for long-term business success.
Learn more in our blog, Deliver personalized customer engagement with Dynamics 365.
We’re ready to help you evaluate the best ways to unify and connect data by leveraging technology to overcome these four major roadblocks so that you can bridge the omnichannel gap in retail. To see how Dynamics 365 can help your retail business succeed, see how you can get started with Dynamics 365 or give our Dynamics 365 Commerce free trial a try today.