Discovering newfound, hidden data insights to drive retail transformation

03 Nov, 2022

A discussion with a retail solutions expert and HSO

Market uncertainty in the past few years has exposed retail operations and processes that were unable to handle rapid and unpredictable changes. It also revealed that there is opportunity in disruption for flexible retailers that are able to quickly adapt. With e-commerce expected to hit 23.6 percent by 2025, retailers that have transformed themselves into omnichannel operations are coming out on top.

What’s the secret weapon of today’s most successful retailers? The right information. An investment in leading edge technology ensures retailers can reveal hidden insights about operational processes and new customer journeys that provide previously unknown opportunities for transformation.

Recently, HSO sat down with Marjolein Drost to discuss cloud-based, modern retail solutions. As a Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultant with 20 years of experience in retail, Marjolein has seen firsthand how this technology is helping retailers improve operational visibility, streamline processes, and transform their operations.

Q: During the past 20 years, you’ve witnessed significant changes in retail. What’s the biggest difference between then and now?

Marjolein: When I first started in the retail industry, dataabout everything—from in-store sales to customer orders and warehouse inventory—was collected in separate systems. It was then the specific department’s job to collect all that data and enter it into the organization’s solution system. At the end of the month, the retail teams generated a report.

Contrast that to today. Cloud-based solutions enable retailers to track and centralize all this data, which has transformed many department’s role. As a manager, you’re no longer focused on gathering data from all the separate systems and processing it. Instead, you’re concerned with zooming in on the data for real-time insights like sales figures, in-stock items, store visits, and profitability. But more importantly, this data helps you identify opportunities for process improvements.

Q: How does this level of data access and insights improve processes?

Marjolein: The numbers reveal so much about what is happening in a retailer’s backend and where there are obstacles. Let’s say you look at the data, and you notice that your stock is depleted because inventory has been sold. But, you see that many of your customers haven’t received their orders yet.

This tells you there’s a fulfillment or shipping bottleneck. From there, you can drill down into the data to discover what’s happening. Do certain products take a longer time to arrive than others? Where are the process disruptions? And do these delays have implications for profitability? Before, it was impossible or very difficult to get this information from accounting systems. If you wanted to know how long products had been sitting on the shelf, you had to visit the warehouse and look at the layer of dust on them.

“Microsoft Dynamics 365 has functionality that can save retailers a lot of time... These innovations are a big step forward compared to a few years ago.”

Marjolein Drost, Senior Microsoft Dynamics 365 Consultant

Top 3 digital must-haves for retail CFOs

Q: New customer journeys emerged during the pandemic. How did retailers use cloud-base solutions to adapt?

Marjolein: With everyone working from home, the adoption of cloud-based solutions accelerated. As a
result, retail teams soon had access to real-time data across their organizations, giving retailers several key advantages.

Real-time data has helped retailers transition to omnichannel operations in response to the pandemic,
allowing them to sell directly to consumers or make products available for pick-up. Also, cloud-based solutions are accessible by teams across the globe. This flexibility is particularly useful for larger, international retailers aiming to cut costs by relocating their departments to shared service centers.

Thanks to the cloud and digitization, retail teams in any location in the world can check invoices, process and prepare payments, and much more.

Q: There are so many benefits with a cloud-based, integrated solutions. Which ones are making the biggest impact right now?

Marjolein: Like a lot of industries, retailers are looking to streamline operations and boost productivity in a volatile market. Cloud-based, modern finance solutions, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, automate a wide variety of workflows that boost productivity for retail teams.

Retailers can now automate processes for POS and cash register transactions, large volumes of purchase invoices, bank statement processing, and incoming and outgoing money flows. What’s great is that Dynamics 365 Finance automation goes beyond these tasks and can even automatically calculate things like the depreciation of fixed assets.

Credit management is also interesting right now. In the case of outstanding debts, you can set up your cloud finance system to issue automated reminders. Plus, every customer contact moment is recorded and digitized— it’s a centralized repository for all your customer data too.

Another common concern is dealing with VAT returns, which is frequently a nightmare for companies. With today’s cloud-based finance solutions, VAT returns are automated, and retailers can generate a tax return with a few clicks. These types of conveniences extend across operations. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 has functionality that can save retailers a lot of time in intercompany transactions because entire supply chains can be automated. These innovations are a big step forward compared to a few years ago.

Discover hidden financial insights that transform your organization

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance is designed to monitor the performance of your financial operations in real-time to help you make data-driven decisions that improve processes and drive growth.

Featuring tools for financials and accounting, budgeting, and project management, this cloud-based, modern finance solution can automate your financial operations, reduce operational expenses, and decrease financial complexity across your organization.

Q: Tell me about opportunities for retailers. Can they get even more out of their cloud-based, integrated solutions?

Marjolein: Many retail teams grow accustomed to using a small set of features in their current solutions, which means there’s a lot of valuable functionality they’re
overlooking. That’s because their system went live years ago but they’ve never explored newly released features. Today, there are so many dashboards and helpful KPIs that simply aren’t being capitalized on. It’s good practice to be continually evaluating how your organization’s needs are evolving. Once a year, ask: “Does our solution still fit with what we have implemented? Or do we need to start using new functionality? What’s now available?”

Q: What does the future of retail look like? Where is it headed?

Marjolein: There are so many interesting figures available. Think about the effect of promotions, customer counters, the amount of visitors we have in a store, and how many visitors actually buy something. If we have a campaign, how much traffic does that generate? Those types of numbers are super interesting. These insights provide a deeper look into a retailer’s operations, enabling retail managers to look ahead and even make predictions about how to make the business more profitable. In the future, I think more retail teams are going to expand how they use this data. Predictive analytics and AI have huge potential that’s only just starting to be realized.

Ready to modernize your finance department?

HSO’s team of Microsoft Dynamics 365 specialists can help. Please contact us!

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