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Archive for October, 2009

Public Commitment to provide the best customer service of all technology companies

October 31st, 2009 Sandeep Walia 1 comment

On Oct 30th, 2009 Ignify made a commitment to become the best technology customer service company in the world. We've dealt with other technology companies and know how complicated and frustrating it can be to get simple things answered. While we think Ignify is better than the vast majority, we realize that in some respects Ignify may not be very different today. However, we are making a public commitment to change that and provide by far the best customer service that any technology company provides. This blog is one step in that direction. We identified several more that we will begin to roll out very soon. We have listed these at the end of this blog post.

At this time, these include the following initiatives that will be rolled out in the next 180 days. These are things we will work into every day  that we work at Ignify. But this is just the start and we hope to strengthen that as we go along. We look to our customers to help us get there.

Thank you! 

Sandeep Walia

sandeep@ignify.com

Our initial set of initiatives to becoming the best technology company in terms of customer service

  • Make every customer experience a positive one for them.
  • Always keep in mind 'The customer pays my check'
  • When unsure – lean towards the customer
  • A published Customer Bill of Rights – sent to every customer
  • A 365 day refund policy on Ignify software
  • A phone number that a customer can reach a human being at Ignify any time of the day. That phone number on every page of the website

Fixed Assets created from a Purchase Order in Dynamics AX

October 30th, 2009 Craig Griffith No comments

Integration of Fixed Assets and and Purchasing in Dynamics AX

Many Dynamics AX users are unaware of the tight integration that the Fixed Assets module has to various modules in AX. Fixed assets integrates with Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Inventory and Projects to name a few modules.

In fact the purchase order process may be used to acquire new assets for the company. There are some basic settings that are required to use Purchase Orders to bring in new assets.

  1. The Fixed asset will need to be created as an item (i.e. ‘Computer hardware’ )
  2. The item may be set up as a service item so as not to hit the inventory accounts while being purchased
  3. In the General Ledger Parameters a setting may be set that allows Fixed Assets to be created from Purchase Orders. The Fixed asset will be created when the PO is received or invoiced.

The process to create to create fixed assets from a purchase order is straight forward.

1. Create a PO and select the item

Figure: Purchase order details form with item to be purchased as an asset.

2. On the Fixed Assets tab check the ‘New fixed asset’ check box. All of the fields except the Fixed Asset Group will be grayed out. Select the Fixed Asset Group.

Figure: Purchase Order Details form – line details – Fixed assets tab

The Fixed asset group that is selected for the item will set the default settings for the asset when it is created. Note: if the user does not check the ‘New fixed asset?’, the user may assign a previously created asset to the item being purchased.

3. Post the packing slip to receive the item

Figure: Post Packing Slip form

4. When the packing slip is posted, the fixed asset is created. On the PO fixed Asset tab, the user will find that a Fixed Asset number has been assigned to the Asset.

Figure: Purchase Order Details form – line details – Fixed assets tab

When the asset is created, it will assign the default value module for the Fixed asset group to the new asset.

5. Invoice the PO. The Cost of the Asset will be transferred to the Fixed Asset

Figure: Post Invoice form.

6. The remaining setups of the fixed asset take place on the Fixed Asset details form. Default values have been assigned to the asset based on the Fixed Asset group that was assigned on the PO.

Figure: Fixed Assets Form.

This post is written by Craig Griffith. Craig is a Senior Manager in the Microsoft Dynamics AX Practice at Ignify . Ignify is a Global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner specializing in Dynamics AX for Retail, Distribution, Manufacturing and Chemicals verticals. For help on Microsoft Dynamics ERP email us at dynamics@ignify.com

Top 10 tips to online retailers for the holiday season

October 27th, 2009 Ranjit Goray 3 comments

Top 10 tips to online retailers for the holiday season

 

Ranjit Goray and Sandeep Walia

 

October is here and before you know it Halloween will be kicking off the 2009 holiday season. In these tough economic times  there will be an increased number of online deal seekers this holiday season. In the flurry of online retail options, how will your online store fare against the rest? You should have already begun implementing a holiday strategy, but if you find yourself running a little behind or need an extra boost, don’t worry, we’ve put together 10 tips that will help you make your online appeal and customer experience rise above the rest.

 

10. Put in place a robust order management system and strategy – During a time of high traffic like the holidays you don’t want to be stuck with an order management and fulfillment system that is slow and is unable to support your expected traffic. It is important to work with a platform that is scalable and can integrate with your ERP and shipping systems. Why is this important? Ignify's research has shown that while customers will initially buy from a store based on how friendly the web interface and usability is but will do repeat orders only if the order fulfillment experience and the quality of the product itself is good.  Good usability and great web features drive conversion and customer acquisition. But a good order strategy system that incorporates an integrated eCommerce store, ERP system and shipping systems will increase repeat buys. Repeat customers will typically account for 70% of your profitability since you have already borne the acquisition cost with the first order so it is important for your store to be profitable that you focus on the after-receiving-the-order process.

 

9. Utilize social media tools– Kick off a social media strategy, encouraging discussion (and links) on social networks and other user-powered sites. Using the power of blogs, Facebook and Twitter allows your customers to connect with you, share ideas and feel as if they are part of an overall community. Social media will enable quick dissemination of deals, share company information and allow instant feedback from customers. Utilizing bloggers for product reviews can gain you a third party endorsement that is respected by your followers and encourage ‘social shopping’. Make sure in any avenue of social media you link back to your storefront.

 

8.  Ensure your SEO is not a one-time but a Wash, Rinse and Repeat process  – Too many merchants expect that a one-time SEO improvement process will lead to early results that will then sustain. First any SEO uplift because of improvements is not immediate  and it is key to implement SEO improvements now so that you can begin to see the benefit of the results at the peak of the holiday season. Second no single SEO initiative is going to drive sustainable results. Search Engine optimization needs to be a continuous process since search engines change their algorithms and ranking order frequently and your competitors will quickly mimic your strategy so you need to then shoot your next SEO arrow in your quiver.;. A few pointers around SEO:

-       Search engines reward sites that update content regularly so ensure your product information, images are constantly updated. New promotions and offers are a fantastic way to update content and increase your crawl rate. Fresh content will engage search engine spiders as well as your readers (this includes product, blog and other informational content on the site).

-       Make sure your URLs are not the random $%^^ type URLs but are human-legible and reflect the product category/ product name.  If you are searching for brown loafer for men, A web URL with www.Ignify.com/@@@@456y7&&**3478% as the page URL for the product page is unlikely to do pretty well Vs a page that has www.Ignify.com/products/mens-casual-brown-loafers (example of a static URL) as its web address. Also our research has shown that that pages with static URLs tend to rank higher than URLs that are parameter-driven

-       Use descriptive names for products and images to optimize word recognition. Ensure your HTML Page Title has the product name in it and your primary key words should be at the beginning of the title tag. Ignify's research has shown that there is a strong correlation between how high you show up on search result and the position of your keyword in your title tag. Titles with that keyword at the beginning will typically show higher in the search engine result.

-       Use ALT Text on your images (aka ATL TAGs) on your images so that your images are not dead images to the search engines but text that they can index. ALT tags filled with keywords can also be used to boost your keyword frequency and help you achieve better rankings. In addition, Alt text on your images will make your site more "readable" to people with disabilities and to computers trying to use semantics to make information more useful.

A unique and relevant HTML page title, matching content on the page and Alt Text on all of your images will bring a big boost to your customer acquisition if you are not already doing these things. 

 

7. Optimize your site for usability and navigation – There is enough holiday confusion already, who wants online shopping confusion too? To avoid customer mayhem, review the navigation on your site and make sure that items are easily accessible. Including a site map will help with navigation and is also a key to SEO. Clear and distinctive labels will help your customers get around the site easier and improve their shopping experience. Ease-of-use is a very important concept in the overall customer experience, encouraging return visits to the site. You e-commerce platform should enable your site with easy navigation, a clean interface, allow site administrators to quickly maintain or change content and enable the company’s brand to be communicated affectively.

 

6. Predict and automate – Incorporate a purchase popularity system in your ecommerce platform that allows you to detect which products on your site are best sellers. The holidays are the best time to clearly feature those products on the front page. Ensure that your system can do that automatically so that in every product category your best-sellers are listed at the very top. In addition, personalized merchandizing help lift revenue by recommending relevant products to the customer, reflecting their previous browsing and purchasing habits. Having personalized ‘recommendations’ on the site or even sent to the customers inbox has an increased impact on brand performance.

 

5. Spread holiday cheer with discounts, giveaways and gift cards – The gift of giving resonates in any industry during the holidays. Giveaways are a great way to keep enhance your customer base as well as increase the repeat buys for customers. Look at your abandoned carts and follow up with those customers with a promotion code that will give them a discount if they come back to complete the purchase they had started. Don’t only focus on discounting or giving away items, but also think about enhancing and adding value to the purchase. Use social media tools to promote discounts and giveaways and increase customer engagement and interest. Also, include a way for customers to order gift certificates. That way if they are shopping for a gift for someone and don’t know what to get; they don't have to make a decision but still leave the site completing a task and having a positive experience.

4. Send and Receive; define your shipping details – Timing your holiday gifts is a difficult science, but with the right retailer and options you can get it very close. During the holidays customers are very concerned with timing, delivery and returns of their online purchases. Take time for a holiday assessment of your shipping and receiving methods. What are the customers’ options? Can they send gifts directly to the recipient? Do you have a gift return/exchange receipt process? The easier it is for customers to work with their order, the higher your conversion rate will be. It is important to offer a wide range of delivery options for both timing and pricing to get the sale to turnover. Make sure the instructions for delivery are clear and provide tracking numbers to the customers to make package communication transparent. Return shipping labels/easy (or free) returns are a good way to build customer rapport and trust.

3. Customer Reviews – If you don't already have this functionality, add customer reviews to your website. However, don't just add reviews – also add the ability for customers to rate other  users' reviews. There are three reasons to do customer reviews

 

a. Increase the level of comfort for customers that are purchasing an item – thus increasing conversion

 

b. Build a community of users that not only interact with you in purchasing by also contributing comments and reviews and rating other reviews.

 

c. Keep your websites content fresh and thus improve your search engine optimization.

Very often merchants will add customer reviews and will wonder why no one is entering them in. To kick start the process offer a discount to have customers provide reviews. After that ensure you have follow up emails after the purchase to request a review for the item. This email should go out only after you have been able to ship the item and the customer has had a chance to use it. Sending a request for a review to early in the process will mean that the request for review email is just going to get deleted.

 

2. Make your contact information clearly visible – Customers are much more likely to buy your products if they are easily able to find ways to reach you. Ensure your address and contact information is easy to get to. It is best to include your contact email and phone number on EVERY single page of your website. Even if customers don't call the fact that you see. Zappos.com is a great example of how they have built a strong comfort level by make it really easy for customers to rearch out them.  Why care about comfort level – because it is going to the your #1 driver of conversion. Shoppers routinely buy the same product at a higher price from a store they feel comfortable dealing with than one where the product is at a lower price but they have a low comfort level with.

 

 

1. Increase your Email reach out – Customers that have been to your site and had a positive shopping experience are more likely to shop with you again. Ensure you have several ways to have customers opt into to your emails . Good examples are during the checkout process,  in the customer's my account and a sign up box on your website pages. Building and continuously strengthening your house email list is important as email is the most effective overall tactic to increase revenue. 'The State of Online Retailing' Shop.org study by Forrester research published in June 2009 stated that while search is the most effective customer acquisition tactic, email to the house list is the most effective tactic to grow revenues. Use the house list in multiple ways

- Notify customers of deals and promotions

- Use personalized coupons to increase repeat buys. For example send a personalized coupon for an item to the customer that who has purchased an item that has a consumption life of 60 days in approximately that much time. That way you are hitting them just when they need to refill the item.

- Provide tips on products the customers have purchased

- Encourage your customers to come back and review the item they have purchased on your site.

 

Although the holiday season may have woken you up to thinking of new and fresh ways to boost your ecommerce business; all of the ideas above present opportunities to improve your customer relationships on a long-term basis and are fundamental for your business roadmap. When this holiday season cools down, revisit the steps to ensure that your online business is well-positioned for any time of year.

Ranjit Goray is Senior Manager of eCommerce operations at Ignify.  Sandeep Walia is President and CEO of Ignify. Ignify specializes in implementing its flagship Ignify eCommerce solution for mid-market and enterprise retailers.

Review of Amazon.com’s eCommerce Platform

October 27th, 2009 Sandeep Walia No comments

Review of Amazon.com

By Sandeep Walia

Amazon has and continues to be at the vanguard of online retail. While it started as a store that focused primarily on books and music, Amazon quickly expanded to other segments and now sells products in nearly every segment – apparel, home improvement, groceries. In addition, Amazon has expanded from a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) only store to a mixed model with its corporate account functionality that focuses on business buyers.  Added to the mix, is the Amazon marketplace – Amazon's answer to eBay- which allows merchants to list their products and customers to purchase from merchants while using Amazon's eCommerce platform.

 Amazon started with a store that was fairly feature-rich for its time and has gone on to strengthen that foundation. Today, it probably ranks as the leader in terms of the richness of its e-Commerce features. As a provider of eCommerce software to mid-market, we use Amazon as a reference for the features it has on the web store. Some of these features not easily found on other sites include the ‘1-Click Ordering’, ‘Customer Viewing’, ‘Recently Viewed Products’, ‘Keyword Auto-fill’ on the product search, ‘Your Personalized Store’, and ‘Items to Consider’. While some of these features are relatively easy to implement e.g. ‘1-click Ordering’, others are not so easy and require an advanced platform. For example, the ‘Customers Viewing’ this product ultimately bought, requires the eCommerce platform to track and record the click path of a customer from the product page they are viewing to what they finally buy and keeping a record of that, analyzing it and then serving up the aggregated results on an individualized basis. The feature will give information such as – of the customers who viewed this product 48% bought this product itself, 35% bought product B, 20% bought product C etc.  Similarly the ‘Items to Consider’ is not a generic recommendation of specials but provides personalized recommendations based on your browsing history. Inspired by your Shopping Trends makes recommendations on products based on the type of products you purchase. For example, if you buy self-improvement books Amazon will make several recommendations on other self-improvement books. This same theme of personalized recommendations extends throughout the site with other similar recommendation sub-groups like Frequently Bought with Items in Your Wish List, Customers with Similar Searches Purchased etc.  This takes significant analytical infrastructure behind the scenes and Amazon has done a very good job of ensuring it has all the underpinnings required to make strong and very logical recommendations.  

The richness of the content on a product detail page is absolutely amazing. Not only can customers view product images uploaded by Amazon but other customers can upload images and include relevant content to that.  I was purchasing a flat panel TV and was looking to wall-mount it. A customer uploaded image showed how he had wall-mounted the TV and what wall-mount he had used – also available on Amazon for less than $25. Very useful information that helped seal the deal for Amazon.  The quality of the customer reviews is better than just about any other eCommerce site. Not only can customers post a review (which most sites offer) but other users can vote on the usefulness of the review. Some reviewers have actually built their following on Amazon.com with good quality reviews. Even when shopping at another store, I find myself going to Amazon.com to see the user feedback on the product.  Other examples of rich content are user-specified tags and the ability to preview a book without purchasing – bringing the “browsing a book at Borders” experience in home.

On the flip side, Amazon seems to not have kept up with the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 user interface improvements and for most part still incorporates Web 1.0 technology which means – you still need a mouse click to view a product as opposed to being able to see product details with a mouse roll-over.  Amazon could use a make-over to make for a snazzier shopping experience. 

The multitude of personalized recommendations is a double edged sword as this can get a little overwhelming for the unsophisticated buyer. A typical product page is never-ending and you can keep doing a vertical scroll down and keep getting more products.  There is almost a need for a simpler version for those that just want to just do a product purchase for a specific product or is not looking for a lot of information. I am a high-volume Amazon shopper and love all the personalized recommendations and all the great content available – but I've also seen many unsophisticated buyers get confused by the Amazon site and often clicking on a different product from what they set out to buy and then abandoning the purchase altogether as a result.

Along the same lines the Amazon marketplace can make it a little confusing to the purchaser as to whom you are buying from. Very often customers buy a marketplace item thinking it is being purchased from Amazon while in fact it is being sold by a third party. While Amazon does call out the fact that it is a merchant – it is woven in so well into the site that it is easy to miss and can lead to a confusing customer experience.

Amazon still leads the way in terms of product breadth, feature richness, personalized recommendations and depth of content available across eCommerce sites.  However, there is a need for Amazon to offer a simplified and hipper shopping experience as an alternative which many other sites now offer.

What’s Good

  • Rich shopping features
  • Strong  analytics for product recommendations
  • High quality content and very detailed product descriptions
  • User generated reviews and usefulness ratings of reviews

 

What’s Not So Good

  • Older navigation technology for searching or viewing product information
  • Shoppers can become overwhelmed with too much product information
  • Not novice friendly

 

Sandeep Walia is the President & CEO of Ignify, a leading provider of e-commerce, CRM and ERP solutions targeting the medium and large enterprise market segments.  For more information, please visit the Ignify website

Dynamics AX is now compatible with Windows 7

October 26th, 2009 Sandeep Walia No comments

The Microsoft Dynamics AX Sustained Engineering Team has completed the following compatibility tests for the new releases of the following Microsoft stack components. Dynamics AX 2009 is now compatible with Windows 7 and a host of other Windows platform releases. For more information on Dynamics AX please visit the Dynamics AX datasheets page or view the Microsoft Dynamics AX demos

Microsoft Product Microsoft Dynamics® AX version
Windows 7 Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 SP2 and Dynamics AX 2009 RTM and SP1Supported as a client only, in 32 bit and 64 bit mode
Windows Server 2008 R2 Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 SP2 and Dynamics AX 2009 RTM and SP1Operating System Supported in 64 bit only
Note: for upgrade from Windows Server 2008 to R2 with Microsoft® SharePoint 2007 already installed please refer to KB962935 and the following TechNet article.
Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 Dynamics AX 4.0 SP2 and Dynamics AX 2009 RTM and SP1 Operating System Supported in 32 bit and 64 bit mode
Windows Terminal Services Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 SP2 and Dynamics AX 2009 RTM and SP1
Office 2007 Service Pack 2 Dynamics AX 4.0 SP2 and Dynamics AX 2009 RTM and SP1

If you wish to upgrade to Dynamics AX 2009 please read our upgrade tips to Dynamics AX 2009 

If you have any questions or need any kind of assistance for Microsoft Dynamics AX, please contact dynamics@ignify.com