In these unsettled and unpredictable times, agility is one of the most important qualities for the modern retailer. After the uncertainty and disruption caused by Brexit and Covid, retailers now face the challenge of adapting quickly to new ways of doing business to engage with customers who have higher expectations than ever before.
While Brexit has caused price rises, delivery delays and issues with the supply chain, Covid has prompted more customers to head online for their purchases. This has accelerated the problems that brick-and-mortar stores were already facing.
Taking the challenges in their stride, forward-thinking retailers have committed to investing in data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence as they strive to meet the increasing customer expectations of a digital-savvy society, predict future demand and operate more efficiently.
These are all things that the Microsoft Power Platform can help with. The Power Platform is a suite of tools that enable those who work in retail (and any other sector) to quickly create solutions that otherwise would have taken weeks of coding and strong, well-practised IT skills to produce. Most experts agree that this is the way forward. In fact, according to Gartner, 65% of all App Development will be low code by 2024.
Users with varying degrees of technical prowess can develop apps, automations, reports and even chatbots to address specific business needs, including HR, IT, finance, sales, customer management and process management.
The Power Platform is truly powerful, as whilst it can facilitate low code, citizen-led development, it can also facilitate the creation of advanced applications and automation functionality. Working with a Microsoft partner like Resonate can help retailers build highly specialised functionality to solve industry-specific issues in a way that utilises their existing Microsoft licenses and enables faster development timelines and thus reduces cost.
The benefits of the Power Platform are so plentiful and so varied it’s hard to know where to start. By saving time on any number of processes, it can free your people up to focus their time on adding value elsewhere. It can help your retail business become more organised with everyday tasks. It provides a common data model that will lead to your people making more data-driven decisions. It can also facilitate better communication internally and with your customers.
Using Microsoft PowerApps, one of the four components of the Power Platform, businesses can reduce the time-to-market, streamline processes quickly, improve customer satisfaction, enhance employee productivity and increase revenue.
Business agility can be defined as your organisation’s ability to quickly adapt to market changes and altering customer demands. Or, better still, establish a competitive advantage by leading change in a cost-effective way without compromising the quality of your service.
Significantly reducing timelines, the Power Platform is equipped to quickly arm you with real-time data so that your business can keep up with the changes going on around you. It enables you to automate and simplify repetitive and time-consuming processes, making them both faster and more accurate.
If you want to be able to innovate quickly and respond to market demands, you don’t want to end up being slowed down by your busy IT department with team members rushed off their feet (aren’t they always?) and struggling to find the time to create the app you need. Now, with the Microsoft Power Platform, users with limited technical capability can work with simple apps, workflows, reports and chatbots themselves. More complex applications can be handled by an experienced partner like Resonate.
PowerApps isn’t just quicker, it’s also considerably cheaper. In fact, according to some recent research from Forrester Consulting, the average cost for app development is reduced by an impressive 74%.
Within the retail industry, there are many opportunities that can be tackled with the Power Platform to streamline your business processes and improve the experience of dealing with your business for customers.
However, it’s important not to forget the employee experience either. Retail is different from many industries in that the experience of your customers is heavily dependent on the experience of your employees. As a rule, happy sales assistants lead to happy shoppers.
After years of under-investment in their staff, many retailers are now waking up to the need to reverse this trend. Enabling employees to take more control in performing their work duties, optimising costs and delivering excellent customer experience is now more critical than ever.
IKEA recognised the need for an innovative 360° solution to improve the human connection in its customer buying experience. Before they set about developing a new Dynamics 365 and Power Platform solution, they had used a basic spreadsheet to keep track of kitchen planning appointments, prospective customers, ongoing projects and the various elements that define the kitchen-buying journey.
The retail giant wanted to foster a sense of “IKEA sees me” in its B2B and B2C customers, while they went through the process of building their kitchen.
To achieve this, IKEA collaborated with Microsoft to build a collection of apps, collectively known as the “IKEA Sales Tool”. This consisted of the Kitchen app, Co-worker app, B2B app, and Customer Center app. Together, these apps enabled simple management of a wide range of functions including customer bookings, in-store customer meetings, revenue generation, B2B customer data collaboration and rebooking or cancellation of appointments on behalf of customers.
Sales teams were suddenly able to make data-driven decisions that benefited the customer throughout the kitchen buying process. The data makes it possible to understand kitchen trends early, before they become mainstream.
So, for example, kitchen islands were an emerging trend before they became mainstream. Customers have now started buying two ovens. So, what next? The system will allow the sales teams to learn and act on upcoming trends quickly during the sales cycle. Meeting IKEAS’s initial objective, this tool really does enable the sales team in the field to form stronger human connections with their customers by providing unique and valuable insight that starts meaningful conversations.
The IKEA Sales Tool has been supporting the business for less than six months. The early indications are that, among other things, it has reduced time for manual resource planning, note collecting and collating data, it has Increased sales due to a sales pipeline being captured and tracked for B2B customers and has reduced training time with new sales reps.
It also enables the IKEA sales team to focus on ‘low hanging fruit’ and increase their customer conversion rates. For example, during peak season, the sales team can concentrate their time with customers at the end of their buying journey and engage with other customers when things are less busy. Before the Power Platform introduced all this new capability, IKEA had been unable to do this.
The best thing about the Power Platform, other than that it integrates with your entire Microsoft stack and, in many cases, is included within your existing licenses, is that it is possible to quickly make solutions that are specifically tailored to the needs of your business.
That covers everything from checking how stores are tracking in terms of retail metrics and store visits, enabling hourly reporting of stores during promotional events and bringing together performance information on a retail outlet from multiple systems into a single view.
If you’d like more information on how the Power Platform could help your business, you can download our Power Platform eBook written specifically for IT professionals and managers in the retail industry here.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with a member of our retail team to find out what we could do for your organisation.