This is Part 4 of an extensive interview with Michael Griffiths, Global Director, Retail and Distribution for Microsoft Business Solutions. We will discuss the definition and impact of the term Omni Channel as well as the importance of “the cloud” for retailers.
Editor: What does Omni Channel mean in this context?
Griffiths: Omni Channel is an industry term. There used to be multiple channels which meant you could sell through brick and mortar, through online, through a marketplace. Omni Channel means that now all the separate ways you sell are connected.
It means buy online and pick up in store, centralized returns management, complete visibility from the POS to the activity just performed on the web site, things like that. It becomes a complete 360-degree connected view.
People are making Omni Channel real. For a lot of vendors, the ecommerce engine is the heart of a retail system. It's where you create a promotion; it's where you do a tax scheme; and many systems have a commerce engine for their e‑com, one for financials, and on and on. They may have five, six, seven places and they have to create a promotion five, six, seven times. Whereas with Dynamics for Retail we have one commerce engine, you create a promotion or campaign one time and it will light up Facebook, your online web site, your brick-and-mortar store. You gain tremendous efficiency in running your business and you don't have all these fragmented approaches and redundancy.
So you can think about benefits from Omni Channel from both a customer perspective and a retailer perspective. For the customer they have that seamless experience across different channels or they can go into the store and that store associate has all the info right there. From a retailer’s perspective they are able to leverage those efficiencies and not have to have developer skills in five different systems and five different engines.
Editor: Is the cloud an important decision for retailers?
Griffiths: I think Cloud is going to be important. It's interesting though, on the store side, there's been sort of a delayed approach to moving to the Cloud because again you want good redundancy, the full tolerance. If your point of sale goes down, you can't capture sales, so leaving everything up to a provider, especially in some of the countries where the Internet connectivity's not as strong, is difficult. On the back-end side, being able to manage somebody's headquarters operation in the Cloud and simplify so that you're not having to manage the on‑premise software, especially in the SMB space, is a big wave that's coming. We have people that privately host our solution in the Cloud even today and then Microsoft publicly hosting in the Cloud is a huge part of our strategy and roadmap moving forward. I think you'll see that SMB is a good starting point and as you get into the enterprise, people will pick and choose their spots on which workloads to move to the cloud. Maybe it’s merchandising, maybe it’s order entry. The good news is with Microsoft you have the choice. You can do mixed mode, you can have on-premise and you can have both. I don't think on-premise software is ever going to completely go away and that's why we're being very thoughtful about making sure when we launch that that it is a combination and you can do whatever approach makes the most sense.
This ends Part 4 of the Interview with Michael Griffiths. Stay tuned for Part 5.
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By Anya Ciecierski, ERP Software Blog Editor, www.erpsoftwareblog.com