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Multi-Channel Retail Strategies with Dynamics 365


Retail is undergoing a major transition with many retailers struggling to remain in the game, making the need for an effective multi-channel strategy more important than ever. Microsoft Dynamics 365 – a cloud-based ERP and CRM solution that connects and unifies disparate systems – can be instrumental in achieving a successful multi-channel retail strategy and providing a better shopping experience that drives more sales.

Multi-channel strategies are critical

To combat decreasing market share captured by online behemoths such as Amazon, traditional retailers had to completely rethink not only their e-commerce platforms, but their entire technology strategy. However, they continue to struggle to effectively integrate all channels for a more complete shopping experience. As a result, many retailers are shuttering their stores.

To date, the worst year for retail closures was during the economic downturn in 2008. As it stands, 2017 is on track to beat that record with store closings so far this year already three times higher than this time last year. Over 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far in 2017, including many smaller retailers, but also major chains such as RadioShack, Gymboree, Rue21 and Payless ShoeSource.

With as much competition as there is from the internet, physical stores aren’t going away any time soon though. Overall, e-commerce sales still represent only a small percentage of the retail purchases made in the United States, but online sales continue to grow. One challenge for retailers is finding ways to gain and maintain shopper loyalty by increasing the value shoppers receive when they visit the physical store locations. Another challenge is giving the shopper a consistent experience, regardless of where they do their shopping.

Creating a more integrated shopping experience

Trends indicate that shoppers prefer physical stores when shopping for things they want to see or try out before they buy. In addition, shoppers are also prepared to travel to a retail store for items they want immediately. In light of these trends, there are any number of ways that retailers can create a more seamless transition between online and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences and to keep their stores relevant.

1.   Making the In-Store Experience Easier and Faster

Shoppers want a quick, simple seamless in-store experience. As a result, many retailers have implemented a number of conveniences, including:

  • In-store Wi-Fi allowing shoppers to check product reviews online and compare prices.
  • In-store GPS for shoppers to quickly locate a particular item or department.
  • In-store bargains promoted directly to them by an store app while browsing shelves.
  • Mobile devices used by sales associates to provide deeper product information or to complete a sale anywhere in the store.
  • Store pick up for online orders.

2.   Managing Inventory Holistically

Many retailers are starting to use their stores as fulfillment centers. That means that both in-store and online inventory must be managed in one system. There are several advantages to this strategy:

  • Since shipping is local, retailers can fulfill online orders faster and cheaper. Lower shipping costs, in turn, help retailers compete with online retailers.
  • Shoppers can order online and pick up in-store.
  • Shoppers can reserve items in-store and then have the item shipped to their home.
  • Retailers can ensure that popular items are always in stock for online shoppers to order and take home the same day.
  • Shoppers can easily return items in-store and might make another purchase while at the store.

A combined inventory system allows the retailer to move inventory easily between in-store and online fulfillment allocations – all to make inventory management more efficient and in turn provide a more satisfying shopping experience.

3.   Empowering Assortment Planners

Retailers are providing assortment planners with ERP solutions that make assortment planning and allocation a critical part of their multi-channel strategy. Planners can access data related to historical sales, shopper behavior, preferences and social indicators. Therefore, planners can make smarter, more profitable decisions to support the multi-channel strategies.

Technology is key to achieving a successful multi-channel strategy

Technology is the foundation to supporting multi-channel strategies. A unified platform such as Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 combines both CRM and ERP capabilities and provides visibility into the entire organization’s operations.

Dynamics 365 helps retailers by offering:

  • Integrated mobile CRM and POS systems empowering sales staff to better engage in-store shoppers and speed up the checkout process.
  • A unified approach to inventory management allowing retailers to streamline their supply chain and improve their stores’ competitiveness with online retailers.
  • Advanced reporting and analytics for assortment planners to ensure the right product mix available at the right time.

Retailers need to implement technology that isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The competitive environment is too diverse and too complex to assume that every retailer’s needs will be the same. Dynamics 365 is a powerful unified platform that offers flexible implementation and deployment to address today’s retail challenges and create a unique advantage to help retailers grow their businesses.