Leading retailers are leveraging technology to fuel growth and scalability in today’s omni-channel world
By Michael Griffiths, global product industry director, Retail & Distribution, Microsoft Business Solutions
Just about everyone in the business is talking about “omni-channel” retailing—an approach that transcends multi-channel retailing, to connect the web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar channels into a truly seamless customer experience. It’s what customers are coming to expect and, when done right, can provide sellers with greater visibility into customer behavior, allowing the retailer to understand (and influence) the customer journey across channels.
The key to succeeding in omni-channel retailing is understanding the new role of the store: the central representation of your brand. This means that no matter which channel the customer is using to reach you—brick and mortar, online, or mobile—your customers see your store as a single, transparent system rather than multiple channels with separate inventory, processing, and delivery systems. Many retailers are in a scramble to meet this expectation, juggling the IT complexity of poorly integrated web experiences, limited or non-existent social capabilities, and applications not built for today’s mobile devices.
Even adding a channel can be taxing on infrastructure that is rigid and demands a long development and deployment time in order to expand. Something as seemingly simple as rolling out a website or opening a store in a new market presents its own unique challenges. For instance, entering a new geography can introduce local requirements–currency, language, and regulatory–that carry significant cost and complexity at a retailer’s own risk. Or, worse, retailers might be forced to adopt additional solutions on a market-by-market basis, which reduces connection with the customer and adds complexity to the IT landscape.
Finally, the combination of multiple channels, markets, and devices highlights the most significant challenge of all: real omni-channel execution and insight in a world of applications that were not built to work together. How can retailers take advantage of additional channels, emerging markets, and new opportunities for growth when traditional business applications just aren’t up to the task?
Progressive companies leverage technology to fuel growth and scalability in the omni-channel world. For example, executives at David’s Tea, a 70-store Canadian retailer, chose Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for Retail to expand across the border, opening its new store in New York City. They took advantage of the product’s support for local tax laws and currencies and POS-system support for weighing and pricing loose tea in pounds and US dollars, as well as kilograms and Canadian dollars. Meanwhile, Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the US, with more than 800 locations, 30 warehouses, a corporate headquarters in Houston, and a satellite corporate office, looked to Dynamics to help ensure a consistent customer experience while the company itself continued to grow and adapt.
Many big retailers around the world are using Dynamics AX for Retail to run their entire business end-to-end. We’ve got a world-class retail experience in our Microsoft stores, and now we have a world-class retail solution that can help you make omni-channel a reality.
This post originally appeared on the ForbesBrandVoice blog.