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My Experience at Microsoft Windows 8 Design Camp

June 11th, 2013 Kumar Shah No comments

As a Web App / GUI designer, it’s important to keep learning new design tips and techniques, so on June 7th, I attended the all-day Microsoft Windows 8 Design Camp in Pune, India.

Not only did I learn valuable design information, but I was thrilled to be declared a Winner for the camp’s design contest!

Please read on to find out more about the Microsoft Windows 8 Design Camp, the key Microsoft Windows 8 design concepts and practices I learned, and the exciting design contest that I participated in. 

What was the Microsoft Design Camp all about?

This non-technical, no-fluff workshop for visual designers and UX designers, by designers, was about developing world-class apps from experts such as Brandy Porter and Brian Harper from Big Nerd Ranch. They had also developed some bonus content around responsive web design. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other designers, cook up my own designs, and showcase those designs for the contest.

The time was split between discussing key principles of Windows Store app design and applying what was learned in design exercises. There I was introduced to the new Windows 8 operating system, and the design and UX patterns that exist in Windows Store apps. The day started with an overview of Windows 8, the Modern UI, and the Microsoft Design Language. It led into a series of discussions followed by lab time, where we were asked to draw up wireframes for our application, at each stage implementing the theory we had heard. The camp was a mix of presentation, discussion, and hand-on design exercises.

What was the agenda?

In this design camp, they covered:

  • Principles of Microsoft Design
  • Navigation
  • Layout
  • UI Elements
  • Charms, Contracts, and Extensions
  • Snapping and Scaling
  • Windows Store
  • Bonus Content: Responsive Web Design
  • "Cook up a design" Contest (which I won!)

We had Windows 8 sketch pads, pencils and Sharpies to use. I had my Windows 8 laptop to drive through some of the theory.

What I learned?

I learned how to approach application design for Windows 8, the unique experiences that a Windows 8 user expects from an application, and how I should approach some of the unique features of Windows 8 and bring them to life within my app.

At the Windows 8 Design Camp, the learning was all about Microsoft design language and how to apply it to designing a Windows Store app; understanding the principles of great Windows Store app design; learning the UX guidelines and applying them in my own design.

About the "Cook up a design" contest

The goal of the Windows 8 Design Camps was to guide us through the design of our first Windows Store app, and so for the contest, I designed an app. In each session of the camp, I learned a different aspect of Windows Store app design via a combination of presentation and discussion. After each presentation, we were asked to go through the applied aspect of the theory learned by designing our own app in a design lab on the topic. All the labs were done with paper and pencil. When we were ready for feedback, the Design Camp’s instructors were available to discuss our design.

Me (in front, wearing a black shirt) discussing my design concept with contest judge Brandy Porter (right) while sketching

Me (in front, wearing a black shirt) discussing my design concept with contest judge Brandy Porter (right) while sketching

The criteria for the contest was that contestants had to consider Windows 8 guidelines and come up with a clean, catchy, and innovative app design with a creative app logo, in a 90-minute time limit. The panel of four judges took some time to ponder and determine the five finalists.

I was so excited to hear my name declared first out of the five winners in Microsoft Windows 8 Design Camp as “Most Innovative Design for Windows 8 App Store”, out of 19 designs and 40 designers from TCS, Cybage, Nvidia, Wipro, Fiserv, Congenzent, and the list goes on.

Showcased below are wireframes (sketches) and actual designs (sketches converted into real design) that I made during the competition. Three levels of mock content pages were created – hub, section, and detail pages.

This is the sketch and actual design of the hub page that I created for my app

This is the sketch and actual design of the hub page that I created for my app

This is the sketch and actual design of the section page that I created for my app

This is the sketch and actual design of the section page that I created for my app

This is the sketch and actual design of the detail page that I created for my app

This is the sketch and actual design of the detail page that I created for my app

Please see below for more pictures of that memorable event:

Shaking hands with Mark (left) as he calls my name as winner of the 'Most Innovative Design for Windows 8 App Store' contest

Shaking hands with Mark (left) as he calls my name as winner of the “Most Innovative Design for Windows 8 App Store” contest

Me on the dais receiving prize from Microsoft experts and the panel of judges. My design is showcased on the  screen to the left. From left to right: Brian Harper, Mark, Sandeep Alur, me,  and Brandy Porter

Me on the dais receiving prize from Microsoft experts and the panel of judges. My design is showcased on the screen to the left. From left to right: Brian Harper, Mark, Sandeep Alur, me, and Brandy Porter

Me with Microsoft experts and contest judges – Brian Harper and Brandy Porter

Me with Microsoft experts and contest judges – Brian Harper and Brandy Porter

Winners’ designs will be showcased on the Microsoft website after minor changes suggested by judges.

The Microsoft Windows 8 Design Camp provided an excellent opportunity to learn new Microsoft Windows 8 design concepts and put them into practice. I look forward to applying this knowledge to new design areas!

Kumar Shah is a Creative Expert at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.

4 Ways to Increase Holiday Shopper Retention and Revenue with Multi-Channel Retail

December 16th, 2012 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

It’s that time of year again: the holiday season.  And retailers can be glad that consumers are feeling jollier about the current economy than in years past. According to Deloitte’s 2012 Annual Holiday Survey, 50% of those surveyed said that they expect the economy to improve in 2013, a significant increase from 33% in 2011. More survey respondents also feel their own financial situations have improved, with 28% of respondents saying their situation is better than the previous year, compared to 21% in 2011.

But just because shoppers are feeling more positive about finances this year, don’t think they’ll be spending their money willy-nilly. Lessons from the recession are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and people are better prepared for how they spend their money. According to Accenture’s Holiday Shopping Survey, 51% say they will be paying for their holiday shopping with cash put aside for that purpose, compared to 45 percent in 2011. Also, only 5% of survey respondents expect to be “extravagant” in their holiday shopping. 

So what’s the best approach for reaching these cautiously optimistic, budget-conscious shoppers? The answer: a multi-channel approach.

According to Deloitte’s 2012 Annual Holiday Survey, the average gift spend among consumers who plan to hit the Internet, their smartphones, and stores this holiday season is $600 – an amount that is 71% higher than those who plan to shop only in stores.

By offering consumers a retail platform that combines the Internet, mobile devices, and brick-and-mortar stores, merchants gain valuable footholds into important retail channels. And with these footholds, merchants encourage cross-channel jumping – increasing presence means increasing the potential customer pool.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, we’re giving you four tips on how to improve your different retail channels to lure in those existing and potential customers.

  1.  Enhance the Usability of Your Online Store

    The Internet remains one of the primary shopping destinations for holiday shoppers. According to a study by the National Retail Federation, 51.8% of U.S. consumers will shop online this holiday season – which is up from 46.7% last year. These results represent the first time with this annual survey that more than half of shoppers plan to buy gifts and other items via the web.

    It’s no secret why people prefer the web – online stores provide shoppers convenience and ease. Who wouldn’t prefer buying the top sellers of the season from the comfort of their own home instead of fighting the crazy holiday crowds at the mall? Online stores are a significant, lucrative driver of holiday retail sales for merchants. According to a forecast by Shop.Org, the National Retail Federation’s digital division, online holiday spending this year would increase by about 12% from 2011 to reach between $92 and $96 billion.

    To capture a slice of these online revenues, merchants need to make sure their web store can handle higher volumes of traffic. Make navigating around your store simple, smooth, and intuitive – clearly and prominently mark the different areas that customers typically want immediate access to (such as a search box, new product arrivals, promotions, shipment information, etc. – see the image below for an example). Holiday shoppers are in a time crunch – they don’t want to think about where they need to click to find out what your top selling item is; they just want to click it. 

    Enhance the Usability of Your Online Store

    By placing clear and distinctive labels on your site, customers will be able to easily navigate around. The less effort it takes for them to find what they’re looking for means the higher the chance they’ll return.

    Remember that nothing says “don’t come back” like a buggy, confusing, non-functional site. Be sure you’re constantly on the lookout for any broken links, errors, or other undesirable features.

  2. Optimize Your Store for Mobile Devices

    With mobile devices being one of the foremost consumer technology platforms, retailers need to have an online store that caters to the mobile-based shopper as well as the desktop computer-based shopper. 

    According to the National Retail Federation survey, 46.1% of respondents owned smartphones while 22.4% owned tablets. Of those respondents who own mobile devices, 52.9% of smartphone owners and 64.1% of tablet owners will use their devices to research products and buy.

    Optimize Your Store for Mobile Devices                         

    Making a sleek, user-friendly interface for mobile devices makes mobile shoppers keep coming back.

    When creating a mobile store, remember to keep it simple and clean – resist the temptation to clutter up your storefront. This shopping medium is different from a regular online store in that you have a far more limited amount of screen space, so you need to fill it with the right stuff. Mobile shoppers want instant access to information about products and prices, and they want the ability to purchase items as easily as purchasing from a desktop computer. Also, just like with your regular online store, continually check your mobile offering for any bugs or issues.

    Of critical importance: make sure your mobile store supports all the popular mobile devices, such as iPhone, Android phones, Windows Phone 7, iPad, HP Slate, and all Windows 7 Tablets. People are connected to the technology world through a bunch of different hand-held machines these days; you want them to be able to access your store no matter which of them they are using.

    For more information on what customers are looking for in a mobile store, and what you can do about it, read our article Mobile Commerce to Get Ahead of the Retail Game.    

  3. Enhance the In-Store Experience

    Although consumers are becoming increasingly more reliant on technology, do not think that brick-and-mortar store locations are simultaneously becoming obsolete. Physical retail locations present their own unique advantages to both the retailer and the customer, and customers will still be flocking to them this holiday season. For example, according to Deloitte, 51% of consumers plan to visit discount stores this holiday season, with 45% planning to shop on the Internet – making discount stores and the Internet the top two holiday shopping destinations.

    However, brick-and-mortar store retailers need to be aware of “showrooming” – a trend where shoppers see a product in a physical store, and then search online for the best price and purchase online. The best way to tackle this is by keeping in mind that consumers essentially want a simple, seamless, convenient shopping experience that gives them value for their dollar. Retailers can do this by price matching against online competitors, and by strengthening customer service and product availability. By showing that you’re actively involved in giving your customers the best experience – with helpful, attentive store associates and systems that deliver – shoppers will recognize it and return. 

  4. Offer Discounts, Giveaways, and Gift Cards

    Because it can’t be reiterated enough – people don’t want to part with their hard-earned cash these days. Even though there’s more optimism with the economy, and even though people are spending more, that doesn’t mean they want to pay full price. And consumers not wanting to pay full price is becoming a key part of their shopping strategy.

    According to Accenture, discounts and promotions on holiday gift items remain a driver for the vast majority of shoppers, cited by 82% as important. Also, 78% of respondents say that at least half of their holiday shopping purchases will be discounted items, and 50% will be looking for a discount between 20 – 40% off the original price.

    Offer Discounts, Giveaways, and Gift Cards

    With more customers seeking out bargains and discounts, make sure your deals are front-and-center on your stores – both brick-and-mortar and online.

    Another thing to keep in mind when issuing discounts is to make your discounts enhance and add value to the purchase. For example, follow up with the customers who abandoned their shopping carts during the purchase process, and offer them a discount if they come back and complete it. Unfortunately, many online retailers are not doing this. According to a 2011 study by email marketing firm Listrak, only 14.6% of the Top 1000 web retailers use email campaigns as a way to retarget shoppers that have added items to their carts and then left. Don’t be like your apathetic competitors – make the effort to re-capture this important customer segment, and reap the benefits.

    One more thing to keep in mind is the hottest must-have of the holiday season: gift cards. According to Deloitte, 45% of surveyed consumers say the gift they wish to receive is gift cards/gift certificates.  With gift cards topping most consumers’ wish lists, and therefore topping most consumers’ to-buy lists as well, make sure your customers can easily and painlessly purchase gift cards either online or in your store. 

Multi-Channel Retail = Larger Consumer Outreach

As consumers become ever more technologically savvy, they are increasingly taking charge of the shopping experience. As they identify and utilize different sources of information and retail channels to achieve their shopping goals, merchants need to keep their finger on the pulse of customer needs and expectations. By finding the right systems for keeping you on top of shifting retail trends, your company will continue to grow and evolve with the customer. 

To learn more about important strategies that can help improve your retail operations, check out our infographic 10 Multi-channel Strategies to Keep You On Top.

If you have any questions, or if you would like more information on which retail systems can benefit your company, email us at retail@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.

Retail Information Systems Identified as Crucial Investments by Retailers

October 30th, 2012 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

For retailers seeking to expand operations into different channels, one of the most critical factors in growing and enhancing business operations is establishing a comprehensive technology framework that supports these developments. According to industry research, merchants are increasingly turning to retail information systems to develop multi-channel operations through data consolidation and a unified technological infrastructure.

Merchants are finding that in order to succeed in today’s retail environment, they need to adapt their business models to keep pace with emerging markets and changing customer expectations. By creating a seamless, consistent, and comprehensive multi-channel strategy through innovative retail software systems, merchants are better equipped to sustain and grow business in different channels.

Merchants are quickly understanding the importance of connected, varied retail channels, and are citing it as one of their top business priorities. According to "Succeeding in Multi-Channel Commerce" by Acquity Group, 56% of merchants surveyed either have or plan to have integrated systems for shoppers across sales channels – website, email, mobile, catalog and social – in the next two years.

Another primary business investment for retailers is updating existing operational systems. With retailers now realizing that supply chain systems once thought robust cannot meet rising customer expectations, the 2012 RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Study titled "Embracing Change" states that 25% of merchants with real time inventory systems have systems that are up-to-date, with 15% – the next highest level – saying they have started but not finished the process of updating their systems.

With the exponential rise of smartphones as a major consumer technology platform, merchants are also looking to embrace this new technology and initiate a mobile commerce strategy. In the 2012 RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Study, the majority of retailers surveyed are either planning or testing a mobile commerce strategy, or have an existing strategy – 46% of merchants are currently in the planning stages; 24% have pilots in progress; and 10% have a fully functional mobile strategy in place.

In addition to new, rising technologies, traditional brick-and-mortar stores also form an important part of a multi-channel retail plan. Creating a differentiated shopping experience for customers is a key factor in enhancing brick-and-mortar store retail operations, a concept that merchants recognize and are trying to incorporate. One such practice that addresses this is enabling customers to place orders for out of stock and specialty items from the store, with retailers providing self-service interactive screens in-store that allow customers to place those orders.

To effectively manage order processes – especially if customers are creating specialty orders – merchants require a cohesive order distribution system. Of the merchants surveyed in the 2012 RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Study who have an order distribution system in place, 25% said they have their systems up-to-date, with 15% saying they have started but not finished.

By re-evaluating existing retail business and technology practices, and by delivering a fully connected, integrated shopping experience to customers, retailers will gain a significant advantage over the competition.

To learn more about important strategies that can help improve your retail operations, download our infographic 10 Multi-channel Strategies to Keep You On Top.

And if you have any questions about the strategies, or would like more information on which retail information systems are best for your business, please email us at retail@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.

Forrester Research ranks Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Point of Sale as a Strong Performer

July 22nd, 2012 Sandeep Walia No comments

In the recently released (June 2012) Forrester Wave for Point of Service, analyzed that top 10 products that have a significant installed base and international presence. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail ranked as a strong performer ahead of established Point of Sale vendors Epicor and SAP showing that Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail’s superior architecture and flexibility has given it much momentum.

Interestingly the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail POS is making very strong headway in the enterprise retail market and has wins in retailers that are looking for scalability, agility and flexibility in their POS. This is interesting as traditional POS vendors are beginning to lag and don’t have the ability to invest like Microsoft is investing into the solution.

Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail ranks as a strong performer ahead of Epicor, SAP, NCR

Figure. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail ranks as a strong performer ahead of Epicor, SAP, NCR

Source: Forrester Wave: Point of Service published June 27, 2012

Also Forrester rated Microsoft on the Dynamics AX 2009 for Retail R2 while the Dynamics 2012 for Retail has significantly more features and in my opinion takes Microsoft to the front of the pack. Microsoft is changing the retail game with modern technology and a very intuitive and flexible User interface According to Forrester, “Microsoft has the most impressive product road map, social networking integration, and mobility, as well as the most comprehensive approach to multicurrency. As might be expected, it also offers the strongest user interface configurability and potential with Microsoft Surface for even more seductive consumer engagement.”

Microsoft not only has an impressive product road map, it has delivered on this road map with the Dynamics AX for Retail 2012 release. With end to end functionality, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail provides an integrated, familiar and seamless user experience tying together the supply chain from the manufacture with the demand chain to the consumer.

supply chain from the manufacture with the demand chain to the consumer

Forrester rated Microsoft highest of all 10 vendors on the Advanced Functionality criteria showing that Microsoft is not just looking at the basics of a POS but has moved quickly to the differentiators and caters to the retailers looking for enterprise level functionality for things like promotions, mix and match, merchandising etc.

If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics AX for retail, attend these upcoming events at the Microsoft Store where you can see the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail system in action.

Sandeep Walia is the Chief Executive Officer of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is winner of the Microsoft Partner of the Year award in 2012 and 2011. Ignify offers Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics AX for Retail POS and the Dynamics CRM Loyalty Management solution for retailers and to several other businesses. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011 and 2010. Sandeep was ranked in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in the Microsoft Dynamics Top 100 Most Influential People List by DynamicsWorld. Ignify has offices and team members in Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, Washington, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Philippines, and Indonesia.

Tools within Microsoft Dynamics ERP Streamline your Retail Business

September 14th, 2010 Bhavesh Ashani No comments

Retail enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is now being utilized by more and more businesses as managers are searching for ways to streamline operations while also improving productivity. Retail enterprise resource planning software is focused on the activities necessary for a retail business. This typically includes any information relating to transactions and operations such as accounting, billing, inventory, and supply chain management. The right application would allow for a better coordinated workforce and enhanced customer service.

Microsoft Dynamics® AX for Retail is a comprehensive solution designed specifically for midsized and enterprise specialty retailers. Connecting point of sale, store management, and merchandizing with enterprise resource planning (ERP), Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail helps retailers reduce complexity across their organization. The real time data allows you to instantly monitor the cash flow and sales patterns. The following tools are perhaps the most important:

  • Customer service management: It is the customers who should be seen as the biggest asset of any business. It is vital to constantly be trying to attract new interest as well as retaining past clients. The larger your customer base the harder it is for their needs to be addressed on time. Microsoft Dynamics AX would help to ensure that there is a fast flow of information between the sales department and other teams to keep the customers happy.
     
  • Human resource management: No business will be efficient without a well-motivated and organized workforce. By choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX, you would be able to more effectively manage the payroll, recruit new employees, assess performance, and monitor attendance.
     
  • Financial management: One of the most difficult aspects of running a business is keeping on top of the financial reports and tax requirements. Microsoft Dynamics AX would allow you a more accurate understanding of the financial situation and also when any payments are due.
     
  • Supply chain management: To maintain a healthy balance sheet it is vital for a business to understand correctly the prevailing market conditions. Microsoft Dynamics AX would give for a better understanding of the current relationship between supply, demand, logistics, and distribution.

Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail streamlines all important areas of your retail business. If you're interested in learning more, contact us for a free demo of Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP (including Microsoft Dynamics AX), CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations.

Bhavesh Ashani is Vice President at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner ranked in the Microsoft Partner of the Year for Retail in 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009 . Ignify offers Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics AX for Retail POS and the Dynamics CRM, Loyalty Management solution for retailers and to several other businesses. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 4 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify has offices in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune and Bangalore.