Microsoft has updated its Dynamics 365 for Retail, offering customers new ways to track inventory, fill orders and keep sales associates in the loop.
During NRF 2018, the National Retail Federation's conference in New York City Jan. 14-16, Microsoft, showed off some of the new features the software maker has baked into its cloud-enabled business software and services suite for retailers. Among them are new associate productivity components that alerts brick-and-mortar store employees of changes that affect their workday or the customer experience.
"Store associates can be assigned various tasks like helping customers, running transactions, performing stock counts, or receiving orders in the store, all within a single Point of Sale (POS) application," explained Alysa Taylor, general manager of Business Apps and Strategy at Microsoft, in a blog post. "To keep on top of daily tasks, a notification capability lets associates know when a task requires their attention, like when an order arrives or a product is no longer in stock."
Checking stock levels is also easier for cashiers now, said Taylor. Microsoft has improved how the point-of-sale application delivers inventory status information, allowing associates to quickly gauge product availability within their own store, other stores in the network or their warehouses.
Another addition to the product's point-of-sale functionality is a new order fulfillment operation. Store owners can now use the new interface to streamline the process of completing and delivering and order that are placed on other marketplaces and buying services.
The inventory lookup feature now displays reserve, incoming and total inventory, helping retailers respond more quickly to changes in supply and demand. Meanwhile, cashiers can use the new functionality to verify that products are in stock at another location or are in other spots within the same store.
Dynamics 365 for Retail's new capabilities are available in preview for customers wishing to try them out. Microsoft expects a general availability release sometime in early 2018, Taylor said.
Microsoft also used the opportunity to announce a recent customer win, Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Known for its customizable stuffed animals, Build-A-Bear Workshop operates 400 stores worldwide. Dynamics 365 for Retail will enable the retailer to move away from siloed systems and stores of business data and toward business operations that are informed by key metrics and customer, product and sales insights, on a company-wide scale. Build-A-Bear also plans on integrating the solution with Office 365 and various other parts of the business.
Amazon, meanwhile, is working to completely eliminate checkout lines.
In 2016, the e-tailing giant announced Amazon Go, a physical store that dispenses with the need to visit the register to complete a purchase. Instead, using a variety of sensors and AI technologies, along with an app that customers install on their phones, the store gathers information on the products they pick up and put into their bag, adding the items to their Amazon account.
When customers leave the store, the total is automatically deducted from their bank accounts while Amazon keeps track of each item's SKU (stock-keeping unit) for accounting and inventory management.