Optimising Retail Ops in North America

As a follow-up to India: an emerging economy perspective and Winning in Retail – BRIC by Bric, Will Roche, Microsoft Dynamics retail industry director for NOAM, brings together some of his key partners in the region to explain why Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is gaining traction across the country.

Over the past year, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail has gained considerable traction in the retail industry across North America. Keen to have access to a solution that meets all their business needs, including planning, forecasting, workforce management, vendor portals and advanced BI to name a few, retailers are quickly realizing the value of Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail for connecting operations and enabling true business agility. Many of our new Dynamics retail customers will soon join the ranks as top advocates for our company and technology solutions, demonstrating exactly why they trust in us to take their businesses to the next level. The success of recent Dynamics AX for Retail implementations aptly demonstrates how Microsoft is delivering on its promise to provide completely integrated and interoperable solutions that are built to provide a single version of the truth, which is part of our 'Connected Experiences for Retail' vision. We are also continuing to work closely with our partners to ensure we are providing cutting-edge enterprise software that fully aligns with our customers' business processes and allows a company to differentiate itself from its competitors. Our partners help us deliver on our commitment to provide rich, industry-specific capabilities for retailers operating all over the globe. The following partners are committed to expanding the reach of Dynamics AX for Retail across North America in particular. Here, they explain how the solution will succeed in meeting retailers' ongoing demands:

Cole Systems Associates: David Weiner, CEO

The retail industry today is seeing a greater reliance on technology in order to fulfill customer needs and wants. Many retailers realise the importance of integrating their customers' buying experiences throughout multiple channels. The lines between bricks and mortar and online are becoming blurred. Customers have a greater desire to access information and have their product their way. Cole Systems is working very closely with Microsoft to enable our retail customers to provide their customer base with a seamless experience across all channels using the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail system. Our offering includes a single master database, which stores all transactions, in-store, online and mobile. With tight integration to social media, this offering enables our customers to have a single view of their customers, to see buying trends early on and have better visibility across their supply chain. The evolution of consumer buying habits and tools is changing at a rate we've never seen before. It's critical that retailers deploy a strong business management solution that is flexible to adapt with new technologies and commerce platforms.

Columbus IT: Christian Tyrrestrup Simonsen, retail practice director, North America Retail

The state of the global economy over the past two years has given retailers in North America a rough ride. But amidst difficult market conditions, most have managed to stay competitive and have remained committed to keeping up with customer demands. Earning a customer's business and loyalty today requires a much higher level of attentiveness and sophistication and retailers are increasingly realizing that they need to understand how these demands influence the supply and value chain in their company. At Columbus IT, we supply retailers with fully connected, end-to-end solutions, as well as the industry knowledge and experience to help drive sustainable competitive advantage. Columbus IT was the first partner in North America to implement the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail solution. We were keen to get involved with the solution as soon as we heard about it and very quickly developed a good working relationship with the Dynamics team. Since then, we've collaborated closely with the product group and helped the product evolve into what it is today. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail has quickly established itself as a true end-to-end solution for the retail industry. We're receiving a great deal of interest from our customers about the solution and are currently in the middle of managing a number of implementations for retailers across North America. Retailers are beginning to realise the importance of a connected retail strategy, especially as they look to consolidate multiple channels, such as bricks and mortar, and online, to create a streamlined customer experience. Because Dynamics AX for Retail can positively affect every major area of a retail operation from financials to distribution, POS, purchasing, warehouse and store management, we expect to see the solution continue to gain greater traction across North America and around the world.

Junction Solutions: Lindsay Carpen, retail practice director

Retailers are currently grappling with a rapidly changing landscape being redefined by the explosion of mobile technology. The adoption of mobile devices presents a number of opportunities for retailers to engage with their customers in new ways. Customers also are increasingly expecting this interaction to provide more value. Mobile devices have redefined expectations about what technology can do for consumers. A mobile strategy has many parts. Junction Solutions provides ways for retailers to adapt mobile into an enterprise architecture that includes mobile commerce, mobile POS, mobile clientelling and mobile operations management. Our solution is based upon the Dynamics AX for Retail core that supports cross-channel operations, extending the experience into mobile. Looking ahead, we expect mobile will become a dominant force in the retail industry as smartphone adoption more than doubles in the next five years. New payment options based upon mobile technology will provide new opportunities for retailers and consumers alike. Geofencing applications and GPS will redefine the way consumers interact with companies. The challenge for most retailers will be to move from a channelcentric organisation to a cross-channel organisation that focuses on the customer. Technology will provide retailers with the ability to manage the customer experience across many hundreds, if not thousands of specific devices. It will allow the synchronisation of processes into a true-cross channel and transparent experience for consumers. Consumers will benefit because retail experiences will become much more personalised.

JustEnough Software: Malcolm Buxton, president and CEO

The rise of e-commerce has forever changed the game in retail. The interaction between a retailer and their online customer offers unique levels of intimacy and unparalleled marketing and promotional insights. Technology has the potential to change the online retailing experience by doing a better job than people can at anticipating shopper needs. The risk, however, is that expectations are high: a poor online shopping experience is more likely to be remembered than a positive one. Online retailing has also created expectations that the physical store must match. In the virtual store, there are unlimited assortment combinations that can be presented to each and every customer based on their explicit or detected preferences. In the real world, meeting customer demand is much harder. Retailers must use store-level data based on historical information and demand forecasts to plan and constantly refine their assortments, down to the colour and size level. JustEnough Software together with Microsoft Dynamics AX can help. We offer demand management solutions to more than 500 of the world's foremost retailers, suppliers and brand owners. From assortment and merchandise management, to markdown planning, replenishment and allocation – JustEnough's suite of retail solutions are fully and seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP stack. They allow retailers to plan better at both the macro and micro levels. This, like nothing else, ensures that customers find exactly what they want, when they want it – whether they're shopping in the store or online.

Sunrise Technologies: John Pence, president

The most significant challenge facing retailers of all types is optimising execution across multi-channel operations. How do you coordinate your dispersed inventory to optimize customer satisfaction? How do you coordinate inventory allocation, manage customer returns, alleviate stock outs, and provide for smart asset use? At Sunrise Technologies, we have been living the new retail paradigm for years. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail can create the hub for that all-important decision-making experience. The challenge most retailers struggle with is how to effectively use their inventory across their various channels such as store, catalogue and e-commerce. An effective retailer will dynamically reallocate their flow of inventory on a daily basis to optimise their service levels for all their channels. This requires a connected view of their operations. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is uniquely designed to connect the entire supply chain to provide that level of inventory optimisation. In addition, the integrated supply chain facilitates the use of all channels to meet a customer's needs. Return a web order at the retail store? No problem. Satisfy a catalogue order by shipping from a retail store? Again, with a connected view of customers and inventory this is feasible. Satisfying an in-store customer's request by direct shipping using the direct channels is another excellent use of the connected supply chain. In short, you better use your inventory, improve your customer's experience and become a more profitable retailer.

We will be back with more on Microsoft Dynamics in the retail space in the not so distant future. In the meantime don't forget to check out our recently redesigned Microsoft Dynamics ERP website as well as the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 virtual launch.

Best Regards

Luke Shave
Sr. Industry Marketing Manager