Finding the right retail philosophy with Microsoft Dynamics 365

The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way retailers met the needs of their customers, with stores introducing new services such as curbside pickup and buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS). Despite reduced virus transmission and death rates and customers now able to shop as they did before the pandemic, many continue to use these new services.

“BOPIS is here to stay,” says Chris Nealon, senior director of training at Sunrise Technologies, a specialist in retail technology. “If you want or need something today, surely you will reserve it at the nearest store by buying it. Gone are the days of calling and asking a sales rep to put aside that shirt you need. Online systems that provide real-time inventory let you know if you should risk simply walking into a store instead of buying ahead of time.”

However, Nealon believes that the demand for these services may depend on the specific retail sector. “I think curbside pickup will continue, but maybe not in all industries,” he explains. “Using the example of the shirt, I would probably like to walk into a clothing store and maybe look for other things. On the other hand, I will take my purchases to the curb at 5:30 and continue on my way home.”

Retailers face challenges in meeting the new demands of their customers. Nealon says that these challenges can be divided into two different categories: “One is philosophy, the other is system architecture.”

Taking the concept of inventory visibility as an example, Nealon explains that retailers must make a philosophical decision about how they allocate inventory. “Do you want to sell to the first person who shows up, or do you want to save inventory for “biggest” channels or customers? You can make a strong case for both, but let’s say you choose to protect inventory for large customers and channels like e-commerce.”

Enter the system architecture component into the equation. “If a brand has a high-traffic website and is gearing up for a big online sale, they may want to design their eCommerce integration with an inventory buffer,” says Nealon. “Let’s say you have seven units available, but you only tell e-commerce about four. When customers rush to the website to place an order and multiple people pay simultaneously, you can meet real demand. More importantly, you don’t need to send the painful retroactive backorder email to the three unsuccessful customers.”

“If you align your philosophy and architecture, you can plan for all the scenarios that ultimately matter to your customer base.”

Sunrise Technologies has enabled its customers to address this challenge for many years. “We didn’t always have Microsoft’s commerce platform to help us,” says Nealon. “Hence the philosophy first, architecture second approach.”

Now, Sunrise Technologies is built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce platform to help their customers even more. “The platform receives monthly updates that follow a strategic plan, but are also tailored to customer needs,” says Nealon. “For example, curbside pickup was on the roadmap before the pandemic, but it launched with numerous additional features to help support contactless scenarios. From our perspective, it’s hard to beat a partner like Microsoft that can turn around and respond to change so quickly.”

With its solutions, Sunrise Technologies has helped a number of retailers, including 5.11 Tactical and Patagonia, adopt the Microsoft stack and deliver better customer experiences. “Patagonia implemented curbside pickup, BOPIS, and distributed order management capabilities, turning stores into mini-warehouses and ensuring customers could get what they needed quickly and safely when retail stores were closed during the pandemic,” he says. Nealon. “We are proud to help bring retail into the 21st century.”

This article was originally published in the Technology Record Fall 2022 Issue. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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