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Online Shoppers Exceed In Store Shoppers on Thanksgiving weekend – Retail Industry Transformation

December 4th, 2015 No comments

The National Retail Federation’s survey found that for the first time online shoppers (103 million online shoppers) in the US exceeded those that shopped in stores (102 million in store retail shoppers) on Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday is the term colloquially used for the day after the Thanksgiving holiday that kicks off the holiday season, and for many retailers it has been the time in the year when their books go black (profitable). Online shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday jumped 14% from the year before for a total spend of $4.5Billion by American consumers. On the other hand, in-store shopping declined on a year on year basis.

For those who have not seen it – all categories are now shopped online. Ecommerce is not just here to stay but will be the dominant model of shopping. More interestingly, 50% of the online shopping was done through mobile devices. What does that mean for retailers? Retailers need to invest in four areas to be successful for the future:

  • Ecommerce: Investing in a powerful, integrated ecommerce systems is the item with the highest ROI for retailers. It is important that an ecommerce platform provides an engaging experience as well as promotes repeat buying. This means a shopping experience that is effortless, offers efficient shipments, and has an appealing interface that is mobile-optimized.
  • Mobility: I predict that in 2016 ecommerce through mobile devices (tablets, phones) will outstrip traditional computing devices such as PCs and laptops. Ensure your ecommerce platform is mobile optimized like the eCommerce for Microsoft Dynamics platform is.
  • Omni-channel systems: The retailers that can traverse channels seamlessly will be the ones that are successful. This means a customer should be able to buy in a store and see and redeem their earned points online. Or that a cashier can pull up a customer’s profile and see both their online orders as well as retail store orders from their in-store Point of Sale device. There are several other omni-channel scenarios, but ensuring your online and brick-and-mortar systems are integrated at virtually every touch point for loyalty, customer profile, transaction history, pricing and promotions is absolutely critical for success.

The eCommerce for Microsoft Dynamics platform is a good example of you can have powerful merchandising functionality fully integrated with an inventory, financial management and warehouse system like Microsoft Dynamics AX. The example below shows two screen shots. The first is product information for the iPhone 8GB phone on Microsoft Dynamics AX, which is automatically published online to the Gadgets store. This includes images, product content, related products and real-time inventory information. This kind of seamless integration allows for a richer customer experience and higher repeat buying.

Omni-channel integration between an ERP and ecommerce system drivers a better customer experience and higher revenues.

Figure: Omni-channel integration between an ERP and ecommerce system drivers a better customer experience and higher revenues.

Please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com if you are interested in ensuring you have online success.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is winner/finalist of the Worldwide Microsoft Partner Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with Microsoft Dynamics AX

October 21st, 2015 No comments

Microsoft Dynamics AX provides a great foundation for customers with its Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities to get light PLM capabilities for a business. In this article, I’ll cover some of the features that provide for good PIM, basic PLM and Product Data Management (PDM) capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. While some customers will need specialized PLM software many light manufacturers and assemblers may find the integrated functionality built into Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP sufficient to manage their business.

Product Development and Planning: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides the ability to build a complete product development plan from ideation, prototyping, modeling, tooling, product manufacturing to product release. An example product development plan is shown below.

Product Development and Planning

Product development planning can be done within Microsoft Dynamics AX using its Project Management features. Planning can be at a summary level or detailed level.

Product Mastering: Microsoft Dynamics AX supports a global product master that is common across companies. The product can have multiple product attributes and when released to a company takes on an item number.

Items can have multiple Item Variants through the use of dimensions such as Size, Color, Configuration/ Style. The Item Variants could be considered the equivalent of a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU).

Product Mastering

Product Information Management within Microsoft Dynamics AX allows for a global product master which can be released to companies and have Items and Item Variants (SKUs)

As an example:

Product – Summer Doll

Items: USA Summer Doll, Canada Summer Doll

Item Variants for USA Summer Doll: USA Summer Doll – Pink color in Claudia Style, USA Summer Doll – Purple color in Claudia Style, USA Summer Doll – Pink color in Sylvia Style. USA Summer Doll – Red color in Sylvia Style.

What’s the business benefit of doing this? There are several – let’s start with a manageable product master and Item master. For example if I had a baseball bat in 4 colors, if I don’t use dimensions, I would need to create 4 Item as shown below

Product Mastering Example

Instead look at the example of the warm up pants where I just have one item with over 40 variants with different colors and sizes. I’m able to keep a manageable size product master by artfully using the dimensions.

Product Dimensions within Microsoft Dynamics AX

Product Dimensions within Microsoft Dynamics AX such as Size, Style and Color help make the product master manageable

Product Segmentation and Reporting: Microsoft Dynamics AX allows segmentation of a product with the use of Product Attributes. For example the Cool girlz doll product below is targeted to 6-10 year girls and is launched in Fall 2016 for the USA market. If I needed to analyze my revenues by product s for age segment (6-10 years, 11-15 years, 16-19 years..), I can use the Customer Segment attribute to drive reporting in this example

Product Segmentation and Reporting

Product attributes can be used for reporting and product segmentation

Product Costing with a Bill of Materials: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides full Bill off Material capabilities along with ability to do a cost roll up to get the true cost of manufacturing an item so that product profitability analysis and pricing analysis can be done.  An example of a BOM of the Cool girlz doll referenced before is shown below

Product Costing with a Bill of Materials

In summary, Microsoft Dynamics AX can establish a cohesive ERP-based platform for product management to:

  • Optimize relationships along the product lifecycle and across organizations
  • Set up a single system of record to support diverse data needs, so that the right people see the right information at the right time, and in the right context
  • Increase full price sales
  • Generate savings through re-use of original data
  • Provide a better picture of your true margins
  • Ensure quicker and more reliable quoting with accurate product information
  • Drive top-line revenue through repeatable processes

For more information on product mastering, PLM and comprehensive product data management please email us at dynamics@ignify.com

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is winner/finalist of the Worldwide Microsoft Partner Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

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Carl’s Jr. Uses Microsoft Industry Solutions for Self-Service Kiosks in Stores

January 12th, 2015 No comments

I’m at the NRF Big Show 2015, and I’m pleased to report the Carl’s Jr. Self-Service In-Store Kiosk solution is running on Microsoft technology. The screenshots below show examples of self-service with the ability to customize items, place the order, complete payment, and get a receipt without any staff assistance.

self-service with the ability to customize items, place the order, complete payment, and get a receipt without any staff assistance

Self-service capability is a big deal for Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), who are under pressure to reduce labor costs in restaurants due to the cost impact of the Affordable Care Act and increasing minimum wages. The solution is running entirely on the Microsoft-based Dell hardware, which provides an integrated card swipe and attached printer (approximately $750 in cost for the hardware), and Microsoft Retail industry solutions for the self-service application.

The self-service application allows for upsell, including the ability to round up by adding more items or making a sandwich to a combo.

self-service application allows for upsell, including the ability to round up by adding more items or making a sandwich to a combo

Also provided is the ability to customize a sandwich (or any item for that matter) by adding as shown in the example below – extra cheese, another sausage or lettuce, or removing items, e.g. no sausage.

ability to customize a sandwich

What makes this compelling is the in-built automation that can lead to significant cost reductions in stores at a reasonable price point. For more information on retail solutions, email us at retail@ignify.com

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is winner/finalist of the Worldwide Microsoft Partner Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, and offers eCommerce, ERP, CRM, Order Management and POS solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for seven years in a row by Inc. Magazine and Deloitte in the FAST 500 from 2008 to 2013.

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Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Implementation Best Practices

July 8th, 2014 No comments

I recently presented on this topic at the AX Users Group (AXUG) and have summarized best practices to focus on when doing the implementation. The key areas this blog article will focus on are

  • Scope of Implementation
  • Rollout
  • Change Management

Scope of ImplementationMicrosoft Dynamics AX for Retail is one of the few solutions providing an end-to-end retail solution which includes Financials, Inventory, Warehousing, Procurement, Store Management and Point of Sale. Because of the breadth of the functionality as well as an architecture that allows for integration with other solutions, customers have a series of implementation options as shown below.

  • Everything or Big Bang: If there are multiple systems that need to be replaced that are either not integrated today or loosely integrated this can be a good choice. The main downside to this is the amount of energy and horsepower required by the retailer and the implementation partner to pull this off successfully. This option is not for the faint of heart and requires a well thought out plan, sufficient resources and top management commitment.
  • Phase Implementation via packages: A list of packages are
    • Store Operations, Assisted Selling, Point of Sale
    • eCommerce, mobile-Commerce or mCommerce, Social Commerce
    • Customer Care and Marketing
    • Order Management, Inventory, Warehousing and Distribution
    • Financial Management, Management Reporting

If taking a phased approach, my preference is to do the financial implementation first as you can set out our base fundamentals right. That would include the chart of accounts, financial dimensions, reporting and ensuring our have a solid foundation for the rest of the implementation. The second preference would be to do the Front-end implementations first which is either the Store Operations and POS or the eCommerce and mobility. If you have to pick order management, warehousing, procurement I would typically recommend bundling in financials in that implementation as well. The up side of a phased implementation is that the scope is manageable and can ensure the organization is focused on getting it right without burdening the whole organization with the implementation. Th down side of a phased implementation is the need for intermediate interfaces as well as a longer duration which typically results in higher costs over a Big Bang approach.

implementation packages

The last piece of best practice advice around the scope is the most obvious one – to keep it manageable. If the internal implementation team is not scaled up to doing the whole implementation then it makes most sense to implement it in a phased manner. An example phasing is shown below

phasing of implementation

Rollout: A lot of retailers don’t think about rollout. But if you are doing a POS and Store operations implementation then you want to decide whether you rollout to all stores together or do a certain number of stores as pilot and then do staged rollouts after that. The upside of doing it all together is that you get it done with in one shot but it can be much harder to manage the change for all the in-store personnel at one go. The advantage of a staged rollout is manageability but you will need to interface to the older store system while rolling out even if you just to the GL to bring in the transactions for the stores that are not covered in the first rollout. Below is a list of parameters to think about while deciding one way or the other with the metrics usually found. I say usually because even though I would typically say anything more than 50 stores it is better to stage a rollout, in one instance we implemented to 400 stores in one shot since the cost of integrating with the system we were replacing was too high due to its legacy architecture.

 

Staged Rollout

All Stores in one Rollout

Number of Stores

50 stores or higher

Less than 50 stores

Number of users

More than 100 users

Less than 100 users

Internal change management capability

Low to Medium

High

Cost of Integrating with store system being replaced

Low to Medium

High

Change Management: I referenced change management in the rollout section and my experience is that retailers often significantly underestimate the amount of change management required to make a new implementation successful. Often the focus of Change management is the training for the in-store personnel. However a new retail business system like Microsoft Dynamics AX can transform an organization in a very positive fashion. However, without good change management you could end up with a very poor implementation as users may try to get the new system to be like the old system as opposed to adopting best practice business processes that come with Microsoft Dynamics AX.  Similarly poor change management can lead to lack of preparedness for data migration, under-trained staff and high resistance to a new system irrespective of the quality of the system. While everyone typically things of adding in a project manager, I would also recommend adding in a Change Manager in the organization that helps with all of the following

  • Expectation Management
  • Training
  • Project Communication
  • Business Process Improvement
  • Openness to a new system

A new implementation while challenging can be a lot of fun and an opportunity to not just modernize your business systems but also significantly revamp you processes to allow the organization to operate in a much more optimal fashion than before. I wish you the best on your implementation journey. For more information on implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, please email us at retail@ignify.com.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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Port of Long Beach launches Customer Portal integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AX

July 3rd, 2014 No comments

Port of Long Beach launches Customer Portal integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AXThe Port of Long Beach, which was recently named the world’s Best Green Seaport this month at the 28th annual Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards, launched a web-based Customer Portal. This secure web application, created in partnership with Ignify, provides customers access to their billing information, vessel calls and related information. The Portal is now available to all Port customers with a valid e-mail address.

Via the internet, the Port’s customers can securely log in and view their vessel calls, invoices, payment history, annual minimums, breakpoints, lease terms and lease documents. Invoices can be reprinted or downloaded into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet; customers can also pay invoices online using eChecks at no additional cost. The Customer Portal is fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AX, which the port uses for its financial management and analytical reporting processes.

Security features were integrated into the application from the start and customers have the option of restricting access by employee to certain types of account information based on security access levels. Most invoice and payment history is available back to October 2011. The Portal reflects the Port of Long Beach’s continued commitment to innovation and its ability to automate transactions that are done manually at most other seaports.

Ignify is pleased to have been a key partner in this engagement by providing the base Customer Portal for Microsoft Dynamics product as well as implementing the PORTS solution on Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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