Counting Down to NRF Part 1: Connected Experiences for Retail with Microsoft Dynamics Sneak Preview

You read it here first on The Edge. An excerpt from our upcoming retail thought leadership white paper (for release at NRF) to whet your appetites. Stay tuned to The Edge for the full white paper version, more thought leadership and live blogging from NRF in the coming week…..

The retail environment evolves constantly. The recent recession drove or amplified some changes: Shoppers reduced consumption, sought discounts and sales more aggressively, switched to store brands, and some even deserted specialty retailers in favor of discounters. But behavior shifts occurred before the recession and will continue to reshape the retail landscape after the recession is only a memory. Retailers must monitor these shifts to see if they become permanent, then plan and act accordingly. But they must pay attention and respond to three additional consumer trends as well:

  • Today’s digital lifestyle is dramatically influencing the retail business, as consumers research and buy products, engage customer service, and share their shopping experiences online, 24/7, while at home, at work, or on the go. 
  • Consumers are more pressed for time than ever and increasingly demand convenient shopping experiences that are personalized, multi-channel, and offered with high-touch or self-service options. No longer awarding their loyalty based on price and availability alone, their satisfaction is now driven more and more by the overall retail shopping experience.
  • Consumers feel a growing sense of social and environmental responsibility and will weigh these factors when making purchase decisions.

In a nutshell, today’s consumers are digitally empowered, well informed, in a hurry, and socially conscious. Increasingly they demand a premium, end-to-end shopping experience in return for their business. For retailers, meeting and exceeding this demand is all about customer-centricity: delivering connected experiences that set them apart from their competitors and foster lasting relationships with their customers. The right kind of information technology (IT) plays an indispensible role in creating customer-centric connected experiences because it enables:

  • Connected people. Sales associates, call center representatives, and customers are the retailer’s most valuable assets. Technology that connects these assets and improves their productivity with timely, relevant information can help transform simple, stand-alone transactions into relationship-building opportunities.
  • Connected insight. Delivering connected experiences on a sustained basis requires continuous fine-tuning of processes from one end of the retail organization to the other. Gaining the insight to do this requires that data from throughout the organization be merged, analyzed and delivered to the people who need it in a timely manner. When this is accomplished, the end-to-end retail operation becomes customer-driven and proactive.
  • Connected customer relationships. When people and insight are connected across the retail organization, the convenient, consistent, multi-channel experience that customers demand is enabled. This is the quality experience that differentiates the retailer’s brand and encourages customer loyalty over the long term.

Stand-alone software applications with custom interfaces understood only by specialists, and data stored in departmental "silos" make it difficult to create the connected experiences that today’s consumers demand. Software applications that are made to work together, that facilitate consolidation and analysis of data from different departments, that adapt to changing conditions, and that are easy to use support the delivery of connected experiences and can deliver an attractive total cost of ownership. Because they deliver value both today and tomorrow, they represent a sound strategic investment.

Best Regards

Luke Shave
ERP Industry Marketing Manager