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Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce: Planning & Implementation Solutions

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce is a cloud-based omnichannel eCommerce application platform. The platform offers a wide range of capabilities encompassing omnichannel engagement, loyalty and personalisation, management of digital channels, AI-powered commerce, customer journey and experience, easy deployment and customisation, and data security.

D365 Commerce allows omnichannel enterprises to connect and manage their digital, physical and back-end operations from one platform. This helps businesses in delivering a seamless shopping experience to customers across all channels. With such unification, customers are also empowered with greater control over their shopping journey and experience irrespective of the channel they choose at any time during their shopping journey. Even when it comes to promotions across regions and channels, businesses can manage all the associated activities from one centralised location.

A feature lacking in many traditional eCommerce solutions is the ability to show customer insights. 365 Commerce addresses this with its ability to churn out a 360-degree view of customers. Classifications made thereof make it easier to improve the accuracy of product recommendations and develop loyalty programs. Better insights into consumer behaviour help employees resolve customer queries and complaints quicker.

Managing digital storefronts is not a problem until it fails to engage customers and audiences. Unlike physical stores that cannot be altered frequently, digital storefronts need not be static. 365 Commerce makes it easier to manage and alter digital storefronts with quick launches, drag-and-drop features, and a user-friendly interface.

Challenges in implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce

Lack of project management approach

Implementing an application platform is a major project by itself. It is not something done every month or quarter. The implementation of any enterprise-wide software application needs planning. Various stages of implementation are defined. Each stage has unique functionalities and requirements. Resource allocation is done. Teams are positioned with defined roles and responsibilities. Timelines are fixed. There are expenses involved. Without treating the implementation exercise as a project, the whole thing could turn into an inevitable burden.

Mistakes in mapping business requirements

Having a misfit software application is relatable to having the wrong vehicle for a journey. It is important to consider what the journey entails and the kind of vehicle that would be required. The same principle when it comes to implementing a business software application. The business requirements must be established and defined first. Only then the right software could be selected and customised to suit these requirements.  The application cannot be blamed if it fails to meet the business and functional objectives if it is not meant for the purpose or tailored to achieve so. The onus is on the buyers to check whether the product is the right one for their business and whether the necessary customisations are possible in the product. It is the business requirements that should guide how the software application is required to function.

Poor budgetary planning

The implementation of a new business application platform is a long-term investment. Only in the long run do the paybacks of having one compensate for the implementation and maintenance costs. Any such long-term investment demands careful budgetary planning and consideration of other financial aspects.

The risk of budget overruns looms over such projects. And the experienced Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultants know this. It is common to see that businesses make new realisations late into the implementation process. If they decide to adopt new changes at a later stage, it expands the scope of the project. Consequently, the implementation timelines also get extended. Additional resources have to be poured in. Accurate and realistic financial and budgetary assessments and projections are critical here. Lacking in this area could mean delayed breakeven, lower ROI, longer repayment period, etc. With financial and budgetary planning in hand, businesses can keep their project expenditures within control.

Issues in legacy data migration

Tons of business data are generated within a short term of the life cycle of an eCommerce enterprise. This data exists in their legacy systems. There is no reason to give up on this data. However, not all old data is relevant in light of the new ways of doing business. Modern IT solutions are advanced enough to keep much of old data in briefer and more relevant formats. The problem is of transferring all or selective data from the old legacy systems to a new, unified platform. The issue of compatibility comes up. Then there is the element of cost involved in cloud storage. Old data getting mingled with new data is a high probability. This could lead to the generation of duplicate data and false insights. It can get frustrating for the new users who would be already learning their ways to deal with new workflows and interfaces of a new application.

Less focus on user training

It is understood that training does take up some time but it is a prerequisite in carrying out a software implementation drive. There is a need to consider the learning curve benefits of providing user training. The implementation of an enterprise software platform can be a time-consuming exercise. There may be an eagerness to see the results. Sometimes businesses show over-reliance on their supervisors and the independent adaptabilities of employees. This can create tendencies to overlook the importance of detailed user training. The necessary user training should be a part of planning from the prefatory stages. With any new application, employees face new interfaces, altered workflows, new tabs and links, new terminologies, new reporting formats, etc. User training makes employees convergent with the functioning and features of a new application. They show quicker learning and adaptability when the necessary training and SOP manuals are provided.

Absence of executive sponsorship

The active role and participation of the senior executives are of utmost importance when any big change is taking place in their organisations. New software implementation is one such change. It becomes easier for everyone involved in the implementation project to get things done and secure the required commitment from stakeholders within and outside the organisation when they have the support of senior executives. It is hard to put tasks aside when decisions are coming with the backing of senior executives. The involvement of senior executives in a project also flags the criticality of a mission.

How YRC can help

YRC provides planning, implementation and support services to eCommerce businesses in incorporating Microsoft 365 Commerce in their enterprises. We deploy an expert team for service design and delivery. Every activity is carried out within the framework of systematic planning with due adherence to the implementation timelines and a policy of zero tolerance for deviations. Our service areas are highlighted below.

Need validation and feasibility analysis

Need validation and feasibility analysis is one of the foremost tasks we touch on. Here, our objective is to establish the business case for implementing Microsoft 365 Commerce by clients in their organisations. Here, we help clients answer the fundamental questions in having this platform as a solution and tool for their business.

  • What are the issues with the existing platform?
  • Can the platform solve the identified problems and achieve the specific goals?
  • Will it affect the business model?
  • How will it affect customer experience and their shopping journey?
  • Are there any alternative solutions?
  • What support systems and organisational changes will be required?
  • What are the existing skill sets and training requirements?
  • What is the budgetary and financial vision for implementation?

Answering these fundamental questions provides the vision and a sense of direction for the decision and its execution.

Support in mapping business requirements and customisation of the application

Working in close coordination with your business representatives, our team shall identify and define the unique requirements of your enterprise in a planned and systematic manner in light of the application’s features and capabilities. The entire exercise is carried out in a process-oriented manner using SOPs. Our team shall act as your extended IT wing throughout this process for collaborating with the vendor or channel partner so that the best-fit solution could be developed.

Support in vendor search and selection

The association of a big brand with a channel partner or vendor does not guarantee success in dealing with them. The onus is always away on the buyer to exercise due diligence in the dealings starting from vendor search and selection. Developing and following a sound vendor search and selection process helps ensure that you do not end up getting into business with an incompatible vendor. Even if the vendor has a monopoly over the market, you should not deviate from the established standards that are designed to fit your business.

YRC designs and develops this vendor search and selection process in IT implementation projects. SOPs are followed throughout. The search, evaluation, and selection process shall have benchmarks at every stage. It is a part of principles and policies to put clients’ requirements above everything else and maintain neutrality and transparency.

Testing and Implementation

YRC maintains testing as an integral and ongoing element of the implementation drive. Planned and systematic processes are followed at different stages of incorporation and integration.

For implementation, our first area of work is selecting a suitable implementation strategy. By default, we follow the six standard phases – discovery and planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and support. Every phase is defined and mapped with high detailing using SOPs. Process owners are identified and teams are formed. The roles and responsibilities are defined and documented. The standards of performance and output to be maintained are established for every activity. Deviations or inconsistencies detected during implementation are reported to the partner/vendor team for necessary follow-up action. Clients remain informed of the implementation progress and developments.

User SOP Training and User Blueprint Manuals

For the successful implementation of a software application in an organisation, the significance of user training is well established. The convergence and comfort level of users is critical for extracting the best out of a software application.

Every software application is different from others in one way or the other. Each has unique features and functionalities. Users who would be handling the software on an everyday basis need to have a good understanding of these features and functionalities.

YRC’s role here is to impart the necessary user training and develop the user blueprint manuals. Our objectives are to make your employees comfortable and convergent with the application. Your employees could refer back to the blueprint manuals at any time. You could always let us know if any additional assistance is required.

We are retail and eCommerce business consultants with a budding international presence and over ten years of experience in delivering expert solutions and services to businesses in more than twenty verticals. The development & delivery of process and SOP solutions for eCommerce business software application implementation is one of our hallmark services.

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We work only for Visionaries.

PROCESS AUTOMATION

The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

Photography includes the following steps:

  • Cataloguing your products
  • Cataloguing your images
  • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
  • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

DIGITAL MARKETING

Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

IT INTEGRATION

Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

  • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
  • Where should your Warehouse be located?
  • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
  • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
  • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
  • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
  • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
  • How much space do I require for warehouse?
  • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

 

At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

UI & UX DESIGNING

This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

Part 2: UX Designing:

“UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

“As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

Part 3: UI Designing:

UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

  • In-house Design Team
  • Freelance Designers
  • Outsourced Design Team
  • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

BRANDING

Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

CRITICAL PATHWAY

Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

MARKET RESEARCH

Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.