Omni-channel engagement is the latest battleground for retailers and the tech titans that they depend on for their sales software.
Microsoft unveiled the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics for Retail at NRF 2013, the National Retail Federation's annual conference and tradeshow. Like IBM, the software giant is banking on products that venture beyond the cash register to engage with consumers and drum up sales.
Modern retailing has evolved drastically, according to Michael Griffiths, global product industry director for Microsoft Business Solutions' retail and distribution unit. "Retailers need innovation and a modern architecture for omni-channel, POS and e-commerce to be about more than just marketing," he said in a company statement.
Blurring Lines Between Physical, Virtual
Dynamics for Retail has been revamped to knock down the barriers between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales. On the e-commerce front, Microsoft boasts that its software can practically manage the entire Web shopping experience, with features including a fully integrated Web storefront, real-time order management and robust search capabilities.
For physical stores, Dynamics for Retail leverages mobile technology. The goal is to provide a new, more personable level of customer engagement by drawing from more data sources and giving store employees the freedom to emerge from behind the sales counter.
The company's new point-of-sale (POS) technology is not only touch-enabled but can also be configured to take customer insights, product details and custom content into account. "And with full support for POS on Windows Phone 8 and powerful tablet devices such as Microsoft Surface, retailers have the power of choice in the devices they leverage to seamlessly engage with their customers," stated Microsoft.
Underpinning these new capabilities is the company's omni-channel commerce engine. It allows retailers to manage all of their channels from a single platform. In addition to reducing complexity, it allows shop owners to respond to market conditions at e-commerce-like speeds.
As an example, Microsoft offered, "This means creating a promotion, discount or other strategic initiative just one time and having it light up every relevant customer touch point."
All told, it's a next-generation retail technology platform that wouldn't be possible without Microsoft's massive R&D budget.
"We invest more than any other vendor in globalization and solution research and development to ensure that we support our customers with an industry-leading solution whose capabilities are built to work together, offering retailers a vision for the future that helps reduce cost and complexity — allowing them to always be ready for what's next," Griffiths said.