Archive

Archive for March, 2010

Loyalty Program Best Practices for Retailers

March 26th, 2010 Irfan Shaikh No comments

What are the benefits of a Loyalty Program?

Consumers today are very discerning when it comes to purchasing items or spending their hard earned incomes on goods and services. They are always looking for that something extra they can get from retailers.

Furthermore, customers want different things. Often, companies employ marketing strategies that seem to target a generally assumed customer aspiration, often fall flat because customer wants are now highly varied and extremely segmented.

In today’s business climate, it is now, more important than ever to maintain a close relationship with your customers. As costs to acquire new customers increase, generating continuous revenue from your existing customer base becomes an essential requirement to survival.

One way of building revenue from a steady customer base and encouraging repeat business is to establish a loyalty program.

A loyalty program allows sales and marketing teams to track more granular information of specific customer desires, track consumption behavior and other essential metrics that help determine a focused sales and marketing strategy. In turn, it helps companies build promotional campaigns that have higher probabilities of customer participation and potential up-sell.

What are the essentials of a successful Loyalty Program?

One essential component to a successful loyalty program can be summed into one word – Rewards.

Airline frequent flyer programs, another example of a loyalty program, provide incentives to travelers to buy airline tickets from their preferred airlines over others even if the tickets are slightly more expensive, because of the free reward flights.

It is important to provide rewards that consumers perceive with considerable value.

Another component of a successful loyalty program is referrals. DirecTV has a recurring referral program for existing satellite TV subscribers where they offer US$50.00 for every successful new customer referral. And to add further motivation, the referred new customer also gets US$50.00 for signing in.

There are other important reward components that make a successful loyalty program such as exclusive affairs or events where only elite members are invited. There are other programs that involve charging a fee for participation. In some situations, this reinforces a perception of exclusivity and value, which further persuades consumers to join.

What a Loyalty Program should not be.

An important aspect of a loyalty program is the perception of exclusivity and privilege. This is what customers value as much as the rewards they receive. Discount coupons, like the ones offered in grocery stores do not really encourage participation as it contradicts the perception of exclusivity or high value.

Loyalty Programs need to promote value as opposed to savings, and the goal is to build desirability. Desirability encourages consumers to keep coming back for more.

What is required to make a loyalty program work?

One requirement to making a loyalty program work successfully is to be able to acquire customer information several ways. What is indispensable to participation is to simplicity. This means making it easy for customers to join in. Examples of ways how customers can join are:

  1. In-Store Retail Point-of-Sales
  2. Online presence
  3. Focused Mailers
  4. Phone Inquiries

Another requirement is the ability to track where consumers sign up for the program. This helps identify which conduit provides the largest amount of participation. This makes it easier for your marketing team to focus scarce financial resources to areas that provide the most results.

Indispensable to all this is the technology to collect all this information. The information collected will allow your sales and marketing team to break down the details into meaningful analytics and help your team understand your customers better and find ways to increase their patronage of your goods and services. And even encourage your customers to patronize more profitable goods and services.

With the implementation of state-of-the-art technology, your team can build campaigns and promotions that will further encourage participation. The tools that are part of this technology will help them track the success of the campaign, provide them meaningful information to improve their strategies and build better products and services that your consumers desire.

Case Study – Cold Stone Creamery

Cold Stone Creamery, a company founded in Tempe Arizona, has over 1,400 stores and 30,000 employees worldwide.

Early on, the company saw a need to consolidate their Birthday Club promotional program and develop a process that will help build stronger relationships with their customers.

They recognized that implementing a fully featured, internally managed customer relationship management system tied to an online front-end web presence would provide benefits beyond their current promotional program. It would not only provide easier, more meaningful access to customer data but reduce the cost of expensive promotional efforts that provide ineffective participation from consumers.

Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they are able to create a fully automated system that efficiently tracks customer information as well as participation, and with the information they receive from customers, provide sought-after products and services that provide that perceived value to consumers and encourage consistent patronage and build better connections with their customers.

If you want to learn more about how Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help build customer loyalty, email us at dynamics@ignify.com to get on our email list for valuable tips or to ask us any questions in general.

This post is written by Irfan Shaikh. Irfan is a Certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM Specialist with Ignify. Ignify is an Inner Circle Microsoft Dynamics Partner who specializes in Microsoft CRM with over 10,000 CRM users. Ignify has built our reputation on product and industry knowledge as well as providing long term value to our growing and diverse Customer base. If you are seeking assistance to maximize your efforts with your Microsoft CRM project contact Ignify at 562-219-2000 or email us at crm@ignify.com.

5 Great things about Dynamics AX from a finance users point of view

March 23rd, 2010 Tahara Mitchell No comments

About 11 months ago we switched over our ERP system from 3 different systems at our various facilities in North America, Philippines, India to a single consolidated system Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP at Ignify. Although it was a little bit scary for the everyday user it was a much needed change. There were many things not being offered in our previous system that we desperately needed. To ensure we chose the right system we shortlisted 3 potential candidates including GP, AX and Netsuite – a SAAS offering. After comparing and contrasting between GP, AX and Netsuite we made the decision to select Dynamics AX based on the richness of the functionality and the level of financial control it offered. Here are some of the benefits I am finding in Dynamics AX as a finance user.

  1. Security - While most accounting systems now have role based security, Dynamics AX goes a step further in security. For example an Accounts Payable clerk can enter invoices and validate that the transaction balances but not post transactions. Only I and the financial controller have the ability to post transactions. This reduces the amount of errors. In addition, we can give restricted access to many different users by creating different roles. Also, in our previous ERP we could edit transactions after they were “posted” and change accounts and even delete whole transactions. With Dynamics AX we have been able to establish strict policies about postings so that our numbers do not change.
  2. Document Management- Dynamics AX comes with a native document management capability. You can attach documents to various transactions such as vendor records, customer records, and invoice journals. Having easy access to invoices and vendor contracts has been a great asset from an audit stand point. Since moving to Dynamics AX we have set in place a process that all invoices over fifty dollars must have supporting documentation and receipts attached.
  3. Automated Expense Management- Dynamics AX offers a web based expense management tool that allows user to enter expenses by project, attach receipts, gather approvals, and alert managers when approvals are waiting. Once approved by accounting it seamlessly moves into AX and a general journal is created for posting to payment.
  4. Visibility and Integration with Excel- The ability to navigate through menus with ease and export excel documents from just about any form is extremely useful.
  5. Training Documents- Previously I had to go in an arduously take screen shots and write up training documents. Dynamics AX comes with an inbuilt training tool called task recorder. You simply click a button and go through your normal process of whatever transaction you want document and the tool records all your clicks and gives you a full document in easy to use formats like Word doc or PowerPoint. The document below was created on how to reverse a vendor invoice journal by Dynamics AX in about 2 minutes.
Reversing Invoice Journal
Recorded date: 11/4/2009
Document created: 11/4/2009
Task notes:  
  1. Click Area Page node: Accounts payable -> Vendor Details.

    Form name: Vendors

    Vendors

    Form name: Find: Vendor account

    Vendor Account

  2. Right click on Vendor column and choose filter by field
  3. Search box will come up and type in vendor name Click the OK button.
  4. Click the Transactions button.

    Form name: Vendor transactions

    Vendor Transactions

  5. Find and highlight the invoice journal to be reversed
  6. Click the Reverse transaction (g) button.

    Form name: Transaction reversal

    Transaction Reversal

  7. Set date for reversal, default date will be date of invoice and Click the OK button.

    Form name: Infolog

    Infolog

  8. Click the Close button.
  9. Close the Vendors form.

Tahara Mitchell is an Accounting Supervisor in the Finance team at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been ranked as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row.

Why You’re Hesitant to Make a Software Change and Why You No Longer Have to Be!

March 11th, 2010 Bhavesh Ashani No comments

According to many or most sociologists, people do not adapt well to change. We are “creatures of habit” and we naturally react to our environment instead of changing it. According to this Benchmark Preview for 2010, our avoidance to change proves to be true within the software world as well. “Over 53% of implementing organizations self-assess their ability to deal with change as fairly poor or very poor” in addition, “Nearly 50% of companies in the process of implementing ERP software have not yet started their organizational change, training, or communication plans. 42% have not developed a business case and ROI analysis, which suggests companies are not ready to measure and manage the business benefits they expect to achieve.”

Although change is not something we accept by nature, we need to acknowledge the necessity of it within the software and technology world in order to improve our chances of success. I’ve pointed out to you that change isn’t easy for us to handle, so why not make your software upgrade easier on you and your colleagues? Sandeep Walia, President and CEO of Ignify points out how usability can be the cornerstone of success and failure for a CRM implementation. Microsoft Dynamics acknowledges the difficulty of taking that rather intimidating leap and creates ERP software solutions similar to the programs you use on a daily basis such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook, but still have the power to manage the overall spectrum of your business.

For example the screen below shows the Dynamics ERP home page for a financial controller. An intuitive home page like this not only makes the software less intimidating it also provides a daily starting point for users of the system and allows them to manage their work better.

DYNAMICS AX FINANCIAL CONTOLLER ROLE CENTER

Microsoft Dynamics ERP provides approximately 35 such role centers and dashboards out of the box to make your implementation successful and improve adaptability. Another example shown below is the home page of an Accounts Payable Manager

DYNAMICS AX ACCOUNTS PAYABLE ROLE CENTER

To make your ERP implementation pack a punch and deliver ROI you need several factors that you need to put into motion, such as organizational change, training, and communication plans . This is where Ignify comes in, to make this transition complete so you can see the results you paid for and deserve.

Bhavesh Ashani is the Vice President of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner and ranked in the top 1% of Microsoft Dynamics partners. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

So in conclusion, even though it’s our “natural” response to avoid change, don’t be scared! If you’re experiencing difficulty with your current systems, you need to make an essential change and NOW before it’s too late.

Do More with Less! Drive productivity with ERP Software in the New Economy

March 2nd, 2010 Bhavesh Ashani No comments

Given the turbulent economy in 2009, companies were forced to do more with less, be more deliberate with IT budgets, and demand a higher ROI from their enterprise software initiatives. To my surprise, while many large companies have been cutting IT budgets in 2009, companies in the small and mid-sized sector have been investing large amounts of their budgets in ERP solutions and I believe this strategy will pay off. Here’s why…

ERP software drives productivity by leveraging an integrated framework making it possible to “do more with less, be more deliberate with IT budgets, and demand a higher ROI”. Investment in software isn’t always an easy undertaking during a turbulent economy, but if you step back and look at the big picture, it’s an essential move if you want to come out of the downturn ahead of the competition. A study by the McGraw-Hill Laboratory shows that “companies who continued strategic spending during a recession outperformed non-spenders and experienced revenue growth of 275 percent during the first full year of recovery.” For example, in the Order Central implementation of the Dynamics ERP for the Microsoft Business Solutions division of Microsoft – the ERP implementation was able to help drive cost savings of U.S. $2 million a year in reduced IT support requirements and U.S.$1.5 million in reduced staffing requirements. That is approximately $3.5 million of savings a year! No small change even for a giant like Microsoft.

So how did these savings come into play? There is no single magic bullet. It is a combination of reduction of many manual processes that lead to higher productivity. For example at Microsoft Business Solutions a report that used to take 2 person days of effort is now produced automatically by the system in minutes. Deb Remboldt, Accounting Services Manager at MBS validates this. According to her, "All our worldwide partners now have online access to their statements and invoices. Through this online functionality, they can advise our credit and collections team on what invoices they are paying and which credit notes to allocate online. This functionality has already streamlined this process significantly and simplifies this interaction.”

According to Mary Foley in a recent ERP for Small Business article on Technology.Inc.com, “The time is ripe for small and mid-size businesses to adopt enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications." There are more options than ever targeting the small and mid-size business sector. ERP used to be a multi-million dollar project. It no longer is. By leveraging pre-built configurations that partners like Ignify bring to the table and leveraging the ERP creatively to use more out of the box functionality a sub million dollar ERP implementation can be a reality for a full organizational cross-functional implementation that can span financials, supply chain and inventory optimization.

It may just be the best time to advance your company into an ERP solution that’s right for you. What are you waiting for?

Bhavesh Ashani is the Vice President of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner and ranked in the top 1% of Microsoft Dynamics partners. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.