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, deliver personalised experiences, engage with your customers seamlessly across channels, 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.
When we first wrote this post in November, the product was only available for preview and trial. Now that more details of the product are available, we’re revisiting our review.
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 that 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 and boost sales with connected apps and Microsoft AI: The MS Dynamics 365 suite has a number of apps, services, and AI-based capabilities that you can access once you enter the Microsoft ecosystem. Get important insights about your customers and customer service, store assets and inventory, pricing and finance, sales analysis, marketing campaign analysis, fraud protection, and Dynamics 365 Connected Store among other details. These are extra helpful if you have both brick-and-mortar and online stores.
- Improve customer experience: The link with Dynamics 365 CRM allows you to 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.
5 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Opt for 365 Commerce
Unfortunately, you cannot simply buy a software and expect to get started on it. There are always some some things to consider before you make such an investment for your online store.
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.
- If you’re looking for on-premise deployment instead of cloud, certain features of 365 Commerce will not be available. For the full list of the capabilities missing from on-premise version, check out this Microsoft page. On-premise deployment also means that you cannot upload your data/store to any public cloud infrastructure, not even Microsoft Azure.
- 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.
- The pricing may be steep for small-to-medium businesses. Dynamics 365 Commerce is priced at £135.70 per month for each user, and if you want to add Customer Insights, you’ll be paying an additional £1,131.10 per month per tenant. Fraud protection costs an extra £7,541 per tenant per month, which means a comprehensive monthly package for one tenant comes up to £8,807.80. Interestingly, this is the same pricing package as Dynamics 365 Retail.
As we had commented in the earlier version of this post, this price is too steep for small-to-medium e-commerce businesses. Additionally, moving to Dynamics 365 also means completely 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.
If 365 Commerce follows the same patterns, you may have a tough time adjusting to it for the initial months. Considering the number of apps you might need to link to Dynamics 365 Commerce for in-depth data and insights—Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 CRM/ERP, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Dynamics 365 for Finance, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, and Dynamics 365 Connected Store, to name a few—the amount of learning your teams will need to do is likely to be massive.
Overall, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce is a very useful platform to get on to, if you are a big player. Many larger e-commerce companies might be interested in moving to Azure as Microsoft adds more features to it.
If you’re interested in Dynamics 365 Commerce, register here for a free trial or live demo.
Namitha Varma Rajesh