Retail (Image credit/Pixabay/StockSnap)Microsoft has unveiled its Microsoft Cloud for Retail, as well as updates to Dynamics 365 at NRF 2021. The company says the platform will help retailers better engage both B2B and B2C customers. These solutions join Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform solutions to support brands deliver more personalised and meaningful customer experiences. This is achieved across physical and digital channels, uniquely connecting experiences across the end-to-end shopper journey.

According to Alysa Taylor, Corporate VP, Microsoft Business Applications and Global Industry, “As retailers chart a course forward in 2021. It’s clear that success relies on the agility and operational resiliency to rapidly adapt to the next set of challenges. Moving forward, sustainability in retail relies on having the digital capacity to continuously pivot to reliable revenue streams. Retails must keep customers engaged and connected to the brand, and scale supply chains.

Unify your e-commerce capabilities

(Image credit/LinkedIn/Alysa Taylor)
Alysa Taylor, Corporate VP, Microsoft Business Applications and Global Industry,

One of the most requested features for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce is B2B e-commerce functionality. At NRF, MIcrosoft launched a public preview of this capability. The solution builds on the consumer capabilities and enables both B2B and B2C eCommerce. This will allow businesses to deliver consistent, personalised purchasing options for all types of customer.

The solution is tightly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service. Retailers can therefore enable curated self-service buying options for business accounts, along with increasing the productivity of their sales reps and empower them to provide informed and relevant offers to their buyers.
Columbia Sportswear worked with Microsoft to rapidly adjust to market changes amid temporary store closures driven by the pandemic. Columbia Sportswear leveraged

Dynamics 365 Commerce to facilitate shipping from stores to meet customer demand. They also started converting their store experiences to be compliant with local regulations. Once stores reopened, mobile point of sale solutions and contactless payment options became broadly adopted. This ensured safe and secure shopping experience for both customers and sellers alike.

According to Russel Anderson, Sr. Director Retail Operations, Columbia Sportswear, “With Dynamics 365 Commerce we have realised that technology does not need to move as slowly as we previously thought. It can move faster.

Know your customer like never before

Providing personalised experiences at scale requires deep insights into customer needs and buying behaviour. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights brings transactional, behavioural and demographic data in real-time to create a complete view of customers. The platform unlock insights to drive informed decisions, automate processes, and personalize customer engagement across channels.

Protect your customers and your bottom line

As more businesses turn to eCommerce, it also increases the exposure to fraud and abuse. A majority of fraud is committed during card-not-present transactions. Fraud is a burden for customers with stolen identities, account takeover, and more. However, it represents a serious operational hazard for merchants. The platform is a cloud-based SaaS solution designed to help eCommerce, brick-and-mortar, and omnichannel merchants decrease fraud costs and improve profitability.

Microsoft say they are helping merchants globally to protect their revenue and reputation. They are providing retailers with tools and capabilities to decrease fraud and abuse, reduce operational expenses, and increase acceptance rates. At the same time safeguarding user accounts from fraud exposure.

Build a supply chain that can handle any challenge

Another major repercussion of the COVID-19 outbreak has been the exposure of global supply chain vulnerabilities. Merchants need real-time visibility into their inventory to drive demand for overstock products and replenish out-of-stock items cost effectively. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management helps businesses build a resilient supply chain and agility to re-plan supply and distribution of products in near real-time. This is achieved with in-memory microservice to adapt to shifting customer demand. Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management enables businesses to accomplish this in a matter of minutes, instead of days. Businesses can also seamlessly scale distribution and warehouse operations with edge computing during peaks. This capability, combined with an intelligent distributed order management system, provides businesses with a single global view of their inventory. This should support businesses to intelligently manage, automate, and optimize order fulfillment to ensure on-time delivery in a cost-effective manner.

Retail solutions that are built to work together

Together, Dynamics 365 Commerce, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, and Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection help businesses streamline omnichannel operations. The platforms provide near real-time solutions for managing inventory, reducing fraud risk, and creating new customer services. Microsoft Power Platform works together with Dynamics 365 to provide an additional layer of flexibility of adaptability, delivering low-code solutions. This should enable retailers to innovate with apps, automate processes, create virtual bots to improve service. Microsoft says enterprises will be able to analyse data quickly to streamline reporting and gain insights across the organisation.

Enterprise Times: What this means for business?

From an eCommerce perspective, Microsoft always appeared as a bit of a background operator in the sector. The company’s order management system is well regarded in the industry. Dynamics 365 Customer Insights was overtaken by a number of competitors. Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection was a minor player in the fraud management marketplace. However, it looks like Microsoft are moving from being a bit player to a major player in the sector.

At NRF 2021: Retail’s Big Show, the company launched Microsoft Cloud for Retail, as well as updates to Dynamics 365. The platform is designed to help retailers better engage both B2B and B2C customers. Microsoft appears to have radically overhauled its eCommerce eco-system from the frontline to the supply chain, sales to service.

2021 will remain a challenging year for all businesses, but retailers in particular. Infrequent periods of lockdown episodes, constantly changing social distancing rules, sustainability requirements is forcing retailers to constantly pivot their operations. Revenues are threatened by the prospect of a global economic downturn. As Alysa Taylor suggests, retail success relies on the agility and operational resiliency to rapidly adapt to the next set of challenges. Moving the future of retail relies on having the digital capacity to continuously pivot to reliable revenue streams. To keep customers engaged and connected to the brand, and scale supply chains.

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