In this day and age, many companies are finding themselves in search of the best eCommerce solution for their business. An eCommerce platform is a software application that allows a business to manage their product website, marketing, sales and general operations online. At the fore-front of this search is the obstacle of finding an eCommerce solution that will best integrate with other solutions that support their organization’s day-to-day needs.
Commerce is a Dynamics 365 application built using the foundation blocks of what used to be Dynamics 365 Retail. Dynamics 365 Commerce offers businesses an all-in-one solution that unifies brick and mortar, back-office, and eCommerce capabilities. The Dynamics 365 Commerce application helps business drive better employee productivity, drive supply chain efficiencies, build loyalty to their brand, and ultimately increase revenue by optimizing sales channels.
If you’re reading this article, you may work for a retailer and not yet sell online. Or, you may be a manufacturer who has historically only sold your product to distributors. The reality is that the product transaction model has changed and will continue to evolve as time goes on and technology expands. When you begin your search for an eCommerce solution, it’s important to ask yourself what your own transaction model looks like. As it pertains to eCommerce, there are four main ecommerce models that you can match your business up to:
Hidden behind the scenes of these eCommerce models are many different transactional relationships that drive how companies do business. For example, retailers will sell a product directly to a customer without a middle-man. Wholesalers on the other hand, usually involves a manufacturer selling a product to a retailer in bulk. That retailer will then sell the product directly to consumers. As we move into the online space, we also find transactional relationships like “drop-shipping”, where a business sells a product, but a third-party is responsible for manufacturing and shipping the product. Subscription relationships are also becoming prominent online, as it represents steady cashflow for a business. In a subscription relationship, a consumer signs up for an automatic recurring purchase of a product (usually on a monthly or quarterly basis).
As you can see, there are a multitude of eCommerce models and accompanying transactional relationships that together, leave room for just about anyone to do business online.
Today’s online shopper is well equipped with product knowledge, and in turn, demands a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Most consumers want to feel in control of the way they shop for products-whether they are researching cost, looking support, or looking for other consumers’ reviews of a product they are interested in. The modern consumer’s goal is to maximize the value of every dollar they spend.
Often, the modern consumer’s purchasing journey takes place in several channels. In other words, their shopping journey could begin on Facebook, progress to Instagram, and end on an ecommerce platform. To meet the demands of this purchasing journey, you need to find a solution that will satisfy your consumer, as well as the internal operations of your business.
Dynamics 365 Commerce brings together historically disconnected channels, such as brick and mortar, eCommerce, call centers, social media platforms, and more. By connecting the channels your consumers pass through, you can better understand their journey, gain better predictive insights, and target your consumer at the right time. It also allows you to use emerging tools like artificial intelligence to gain better business insights. Ultimately, this will allow you to drive a more efficient supply chain, better support employees, and deliver a better experience to your customers.
When selecting an eCommerce platform, a major focus-point should be the insights you are able to draw from the platform you choose. Ideally, you want to be able to analyze and report on sales trends, sales patterns, sales performance (by product and category), customer and product profitability, store performance, as well as purchase recency and frequency. In Dynamics 365 Commerce, you can monitor sales and margin performance in real time across different levels of categories. For example, you could look at insights around products, categories, discounts, customers, operating units, registers/terminals, and more. You can drill-down to individual channels and then create and easily share reports. Users can also study profitability for the top products on criteria such as sales amount, gross profit margin, margin percentage, and quantity. This comes in the form of a Dashboard as well as an out-of-box “Top Products” report.
Point-of-Sale experiences are customer focused inside of Dynamics 365 Commerce. By supporting both cloud and MPOS experiences, Commerce gives customers and employees alike the ability to conduct business on any device. You can use the cloud POS on browsers with mobile devices, or use MPOS to process sales, orders, operations and inventory across other devices. Commerce also gives you the opportunity to track receipts and commissions of each sale event.
Dynamics 365 Commerce allows you to have products pre-configured, before releasing them to the retail channels of your choice. To create products for sales inside of Commerce, you define the product or service’s properties and attributes, and then assign them to categories. When setting up products, you also have the ability to manipulate price, or set up discounts and apply them to certain products or transactions across the sales channel of your choice. Dynamics 365 Commerce let’s you strategically plan your merchandising and inventory to increase sales and profitability.
Disconnected legacy systems can make it difficult to analyze product sales performance in real-time, much less predict it with a high degree of confidence. In fact, the annual loss from out of stock in North America is valued at $130B, with a capital ‘B’. Having a reliable inventory system will be your first return on investment when investing in a new eCommerce platform. You need an inventory management solution to:
One of the biggest competitive advantages of Dynamics 365 Commerce is the versatility in sales channels. Though Shopify has recently come out with an “on-premise” POS system, their platform does not allow for a single account to house multiple sales channels. In Dynamics 365, you can have brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, or call centers, and manage them in the same place. Each sales channel can have its own payment method, pricing, expense accounts, and employees. You can of course, configure products and services specific to each store and define specific prices for those products.
With 73% of customers using multiple channels during a shopping journey, you need a unified commerce platform to:
What does it mean to unify your channels? Maybe enterprise businesses today don’t just stick to one single sales channel. For example, a business may have a website through which they conduct sales, a retail store through which they greet customers, and a call center through which they support those sales. A true omni-channel experience will enable both customers and retailers to have access to the same product and information everywhere. I’ll go through and define each individual channel so you can better understand.
Dynamics 365 Commerce integrates with a number of Microsoft products and productivity tools like Office 365, Power BI, Azure, and other Dynamics 365 applications. These integrations drive value to your investment in Dynamics 365 Commerce. You can also connect the application to insight tools like Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, to draw strong analytics on customer engagement. Finally, Microsoft offers an integration with Bing for Commerce so that you can sell on one of the top performing search engines. Though Dynamics 365 Commerce does not have the robust select of third-party plugins like Magento and Shopify have, the integrations offered are seamless, and protect you against third-party application sellers.
With most shopping now happening online, loyalty programs have begun to rise in popularity. An eCommerce loyalty program is a customer retention tool that encourages your customers to stay engaged. If your employees are able to form long-term relationships with key customers, your customers will continue to purchase through you and your store will stay profitable.
Dynamics 365 Commerce offers different engagement and insight tools that allow you to store important client information such as likes and dislikes, purchase history, product preferences, birthdays, and more. Employees can easily find this information in a single view and in turn, target customers who meet specific criteria. As an example, an employee could easily target customers who prefer t-shirts or customers who have an upcoming birthday they’ll be celebrating. The employee could then target them with a birthday coupon offering them 25% off towards a t-shirt purchase.
You can also set up loyalty programs by sales channel. Dynamics 365 Commerce allows you to create “earning rules”, essentially defining the engagements a customer needs to have in order to earn rewards. You can also issue loyalty cards to any use that is a part of your loyalty program in any retail channel. Finally, Commerce offers the ability to link customer records to a single loyalty card. This would allow a customer to pool their loyalty points from multiple cards and then redeem them. Most eCommerce platforms offer loyalty programs through the form of plug-ins that come at an additional cost. The loyal program offering is built into Dynamics 365 Commerce and comes with insightful analytics tools to help you keep your customers engaged.
Conducting business online can bring major advantages to your existing sales channels, but it can also expose you to serious risks including the potential for fraud. In this day and age, there exist sophisticated users who will take advantage of the vulnerability and accessibility of our sales channel to create malicious transactions. In my years of working for different eCommerce clients, I have seen account takeovers, fake product reviews, abuse of free trials, and reseller fraud. These are all online activities that have the potential to impact your brand’s reputation, and in turn, your profitability.
Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection helps battle payment fraud by driving down fraud loss, increasing bank acceptance rates to yield higher revenue, and improving the online experience for customers. Fraud Protection uses AI and insights from the fraud protection network to supply correct decisions in real time. It also includes device fingerprinting, a transaction acceptance booster, and a rules engine. You can use the Dynamics 365 Commerce dashboards and insights to create risk reports and better understand how likely you are to be exposed to fraud.
The Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection network essentially learns and adapts by observing patterns in your sales and then equips you with the tools to optimize fraud controls. The graph explorer provides a virtual fraud analyst screen showing you purchase nodes by user. Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection offers a multitude of ways for enterprise businesses to protect themselves from malicious activities online.
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