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What You Need to Know About Dynamics 365 for Commerce

Caroline Mayou

Caroline Mayou

The Microsoft Dynamics AX/D365 Support Team at Avantiico is focused on solving our client’s problems, from daily issues to large and more complex problems.

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If you’ve already invested in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, then you know the value of a cloud-based ERP system. Now, eCommerce companies can share in the benefits of automated and simplified sales and order processing, accounting, inventory management, and CRM. 

Microsoft has announced it will be expanding Dynamics 365 for Retail with forward-thinking eCommerce and store management capabilities, new Product Insights, and more. Through the use of Dynamics 365 Commerce, companies will be able to deploy, manage and scale their eCommerce business with a unionized view of other important operations. 

Microsoft has voiced their recommended journey towards a. digital transformation as follows:

  • Optimize business operations with intelligent insights
  • Empower employees to. deliver on business growth
  • Delight customers with exceptional shopping experiences

In this blog post, I’ll be shining a light on the most important features I’ve identified inside of Dynamics 365 for Commerce that will help drive our business towards this digital transformation. 

Dynamics 365 Commerce: A New Application

Commerce is one of Microsoft’s newest applications available inside of Dynamics 365. Commerce provides a unionized solution for retail stores, online stores, mobile app stores and more. Inside of Dynamics 365 for Commerce, users will find a combined view of store-front, digital, and back office interactions.

With the help of progressive and granular insights, companies are able to drive change in the way they engage with customers, increase their team’s productivity, optimize retail operations, and ultimately deliver better business outcomes. 

Dynamics 365 customers that are already using the Retail application will be able to update to Commerce upon its launch in December. But Commerce isn’t just a new name for the Retail application. In fact, it holds true to its name and is loaded with new features that will surely catch the gaze of ecommerce business owners. 

How Does the eCommerce Platform Work?

The eCommerce platform is where users are able to manage customer accounts, view their order history, and gauge customer loyalty. It is also the platform that carries the very website your customers will digitally shop and check out. It is through the e-Commerce platform that Commerce is able to communicate the most relevant data to your business all while offering your customers the best digital experience possible. 

Dynamics 365 for Commerce: e-Commerce Platform
Dynamics 365 for Commerce: e-Commerce Platform

Let's Break the Commerce Platform Down

The Retail Headquarters component seen at the top left houses a single place where users can manage products, produce reports, manage customer information, and more. It is here that users configure the store and manage its operations. 

The Commerce Data Exchange you see highlighted in green to the right symbolized the components that are used to communication information from Dynamics 365 for Commerce (formerly known as Retail) to your online store.  For more information on this data exchange, please refer to Microsoft’s documentation on Commerce Data Exchange. 

The Retail Server is what houses the Web API’s necessary to support the customer service functions of your business. This includes information like shipping price, taxes, wish lists, and more.

New Features to Accompany the Name Change

Along with a re-name for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail, Commerce comes with a multitude of new features. Many of these features will seem fundamental. However, when paired with the features of other applications that tie into Commerce, you might get overloaded with just how quickly you can scale your business on this platform, all while avoiding major developments costs. 

Customization Extensability

Ask any ecommerce marketer about his or her stack of tools and you’ll find a wide array of applications that are considered essential to the individual. Microsoft recognized that users would need to leverage these tools in order for their platform to compete with other ecommerce platforms on the market. the ‘Extensability’ feature gives in-house developers the ability to create extensions to continue leveraging these tools in their Commerce website. 

Does this mean that Commerce will require an insane amount of customization? Absolutely not. The very purpose of this feature is to eliminate development overhead and allow companies to hit the ground running. The e-Commerce starter kit provides a fair amount of customization. This feature simply allows your team to take it a step further without the complexities and dedicated time. For example, Commerce provides UX modules that adapt to different looks based on the market. Commerce also provides integrations that activate with the flip of a switch. 

The Extensibility feature seems to be comparable to the traditional ‘app marketplace’. The ultimate goal behind it, is to let ecommerce specialists and marketers create websites with the tools they know, trust, and love- all within the secure platform of Dynamics 365 for Commerce. 

Personal Product Recommendations

Search has been a major topic in the world of marketing, and for a good reason. Navigation plays a huge role in SEO- because what’s great for your users, is always great for SEO. Product recommendations can help users navigate a site by pointing them in the direction of what they’re looking for. It can also make it easier for shoppers to continue shopping after adding an initial item to their cart. The attention given to the customer experience ultimately drives increased conversions, creating a wine for the business as well as the consumer. 

For this reason, Microsoft launched the Recommendations Application. The Dynamics 365 Commerce Recommendations service uses artificial intelligence to guide users through their shopping experience. 

Some examples of recommendation types include:

  • Human-Curated Lists: If you’re running a Black Friday campaign and looking to create a spotlight for relevant products, a human-curated list will allow you to do just that.
  • Landing Pages: Landing pages can help you highlight a concentrated or condensed group of products. You could use a landing page to feature your “New” Products, for example. 
  • Browse Pages: Curate products by ‘best selling’ or trending through the use of a Browse Page. 
  • PDP (Product Detail Page) Recommendations: Let’s imagine you operate a retail store that specializes in Outdoor Equipment. A customer is searching for hiking boots and lands on your “Best Sellers” page. He clicks on a pair of boots he fancies. Now he’s looking over the specs to finalize his decision to make a purchase. Wouldn’t this be a. fantastic opportunity cross-sell wool socks? A PDP recommendation can do just that, across multiple products.
  • Personalized Recommendations: Create ‘Picked for You’ lists based on customer’s past shopping behavior. 

Canonical URLs Are Now Enabled

SEO enters Microsoft’s vocabulary as this new feature launches in 2019. Canonical URLs are a fundamental component of an ecommerce platform as it pertains to SEO. It’s a fairly simple concept- If you have several versions of the same content (let’s use the example of a product description), you pick one version to be the “canonical version”. This tells the search engines that the content made canonical is the content they should crawl and show in results. 

Choosing proper Canonical URLs for products is key to eCommerce SEO. You can picture a canonical URL as a 301 redirect that isn’t as official and doesn’t actually redirect the user. Instead, it redirects Google to show what you want to show to potential customers. 

Microsoft recognized that marketing users may want to increase a product’s discoverability by placing it in multiple ‘categories’ on the store’s website. By giving user’s a choice in the canonical URL, Microsoft helps marketers avoid duplicate content issues and helps keep page SEO healthy.  

Don't Be Scared. There's A Starter Kit

In the past, building a. digital store through Dynamics 365 was a possible, but very difficult and expensive task. Mostly because of a lack of integrations and an overhead of development costs that didn’t compete with other products on the market. This is has all changed with the. Commerce Starter Kit now being fully integrated in Dynamics 365. 

The e-Commerce starter kit is an impressive set of templates and modules built on the UX platform that helps users build and maintain an eCommerce store in Dynamics 365. You can define your brand, customize your theme, and customize page branding to match your customer experience. 

For example, templates exist for each ‘section’ of your site, including Home Page, Product Detail Pages, Search pages and more. Modules can also be personalized to create modern aesthetic components that help drive the customer experience. 

The Starter Kit also includes preconfigured data sources for the Dynamics, CMS and Asset Manager data sets.

Summary

It’s no secret that digital transformation is radically changing the retail industry. In the midst of the upheaval, retailers are feeling rising pressure from three sources: knowledgeable and well researched consumers, innovative competition, and legacy IT systems. By revamping Dynamics for Commerce with features specifically designed to accommodate e-commerce businesses, Microsoft has set itself up as a player in the eCommerce world. 

Dynamics 365 for Commerce
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