Say you have a long list of household items to buy. Groceries, cleaning supplies, a pair of jeans, a bedside table, a new hairdryer, garden supplies. You know you might have to visit 3 or 4 stores before you get through everything on the list. And you’re okay with that.
Now, a nearby supermarket upgrades itself to a hypermarket and you can get everything in your list from that one store. You’d agree that the majority would prefer to go the hypermarket instead of visiting 3 or 4 stores.
Microsoft is fast becoming that one hypermarket for business solutions. It has always been a market leader in enterprise software and is now expanding its Dynamics 365 business suite with new capabilities and applications that make it a one-stop solution for all kinds of businesses.
What Is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce?
The latest offering in the Dynamics 365 portfolio is the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce, an omnichannel e-commerce solution that allows you to build a website, connect physical and digital stores, track customer behaviours and requirements, improve your operations and resource management, and gain holistic insights to upscale your business.
The platform was announced in September 2019 and is an upgrade to its Dynamics 365 Retail. The 365 Commerce platform integrates customer experiences, loyalty programmes, and online stores with backend systems such as operations, inventory, and resource utilisation.
This means you can monitor and get consolidated and comprehensive insights about almost all aspects of your business from a single source. This brings down your dependency on multiple plugins, widgets, or unlinked software, while allowing you to find data-backed solutions to any issue quickly and effectively.
While the offering has not been rolled out for public purchase yet, we looked at its capabilities to tell you what we think about it.
6 Reasons to Consider Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce for Your Business
Here are the key highlights of this omnichannel solution:
- Build and customise your e-commerce site easily: You can customise your e-commerce site through 365 Commerce’s built-in web-authoring and development tools included in the Store Starter Kit (SSK). Whether you own a small site or a large one, you can tailor it to your requirements and scale up as needed. The preview comes with a dummy site Fabrikam, which you can use to figure out how the modules work. The SSK contains the following modules:
- Container – to host all other modules
- Product Details Page – Product Specifications, Quick View and cart addition, and Ratings and Reviews
- Marketing – everything required to display your content, including Video and Carousel
- Purchase – Add to Cart, Checkout, and Order Confirmation modules to aid the purchasing journey
- Search – easy way for customers to find products and refine searches on your site
- Account Management – Includes Sign-in, Sign-up, Order History, and Order Details modules
- Recommendations: Product placement/promotion with algorithmic and editorial capabilities
- Header and footer – customisable Headers and Footers for your webpages
- Buy online pick up in store – linked to Bing for customers to go to the nearest store to pick the items they bought online
- Get comprehensive insights from connected apps: The MS Dynamics 365 suite has a number of apps and services linked to it. You can access important insights about your customers, store assets and inventory, pricing, sales analysis, and marketing campaign analysis, among other details. These are extra helpful if you have both brick-and-mortar and online stores.
- Improve customer experience: With the Dynamics 365 CRM software, you can be on top of customer behaviour, relationship management, new customer acquisition, retention of existing customers, and loyalty programmes. This means that you can provide customers with the right kind of support, drive engagement from them, adjust your marketing plans, improve your leads and sales, and deal effectively with issues such as cart abandonment and one-time purchases.
- Quickly access your data: Since 365 Commerce (and the entire Dynamics suite) is a cloud-based application, it is centralised, and you can access any data or insight you need with a single login.
- Scale up easily: The platform being on the cloud also means that you don’t have to worry about physical space or hardware requirements when you want to add new software or scale up your business. Microsoft also takes care of data security and upgrades its software regularly to add new and interesting features.
- A trusted brand for enterprise software: Most companies at least use the Office 365 suite and therefore are already in the Microsoft ecosystem. If you are already there, it’s not really much of a leap of faith to use other Microsoft products and benefit from the volume of data and insights they will provide.
6 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Opt for 365 Commerce
Unfortunately, you cannot simply buy the software and expect to get started on it. Currently, Microsoft is only giving out previews, and even for that, there are some criteria to meet first. Here are some things to think about before deciding to purchase or preview the software:
- You need access to Microsoft Azure and the Dynamics Lifecycle Services portal (LCS). LCS is based off Microsoft’s cloud computing service Azure. This means that if you are on another cloud platform, you will have to be willing to move completely. You should also have admin access directly or indirectly to the Azure subscription, a functional AAD (Azure Active Directory) Tenant ID, and an e-commerce system admins group ID and a Ratings and Reviews moderator group ID in a dedicated AAD Security Group.
- You should be authorised by your company to create a project or e-commerce site. Specifically, Microsoft needs you to be the Environment Manager or Project Owner AND have the authority to build a project for prospective presales, migration, solutioning, and/or learning.
- Microsoft has to accept your preview request. If you are interested in the product, you can request a preview via the official website. But Microsoft is likely to have a limit on the number of previews it hands out, and you may not make it to the initial list. On the other hand, this means that you can wait for companies to try it out and review the portal before you get on to it.
- We aren’t sure if this will do away with reliance on third-party apps. The Dynamics 365 suite has a list of compatible e-commerce plugins/add-ons such as k-e-commerce, Able-commerce, Hitachi Solutions, StoreHippo, and Sana Commerce that could be used in conjunction with Microsoft products to create an e-commerce site. You could also integrate the popular Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, or BigCommerce with Dynamics 365 ERP/CRM programmes.
But with the advent of 365 Commerce, we hope that you won’t need to invest in or depend on any other software. However, Microsoft has not declared the list of authorised add-ons for 365 Commerce on AppSource, so whether its features can or need to be enhanced by external plugins or not, will have to be seen.
- Microsoft hasn’t announced its pricing yet. The 365 Retail suite is priced at £70 per month for each user, and if you wanted to add Customer Insights, you’d be paying an additional £1,131.10 per month per tenant. Fraud protection cost an extra £7,541 per tenant per month, which means a comprehensive monthly package for one tenant came up to £8,807.80.
If 365 Commerce is priced in a similar range, it might be almost impossible for small-to-medium businesses to afford it. Additionally, moving to Dynamics 365 also means completing moving your software infrastructure to the Microsoft ecosystem and Azure, which may pile up the overall cost.
- Three common complaints about the Dynamics 365 portals are:
- You cannot make any server code adjustments.
- It may take a long time to figure out everything about the portal.
- The system slows down in case of large amounts of data.
We don’t know yet whether 365 Commerce will follow the same patterns, but if it does, you may have a tough time adjusting to it for the initial months.
Overall, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce gives the first impression of being a very useful platform to get on to, if you are a big player. Marks & Spencer are already working with the Dynamics 365 Connected Store platform that was also announced alongside 365 Commerce. Many companies might be interested in moving to Azure as Microsoft adds more features to it. We’ll wait for the company to announce more details to tell you more. Stay tuned!
Namitha Varma Rajesh