Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Retailing in the modern world Pt II - Omni-channel vs Multi-channel buzz words

It is a big buzz word to say 'omni-channel retail' in today's world but what does that mean? Is it the same as multi-channel? No. Then what is the difference? Depends on interpretation.

    Multi-channel retail – involves both the sales and supply chain aspects of a retail channel independent of any other channel
    Omni-channel retail – same definition as multi-channel but involves integrating the various channels to create a seamless, 360 degree experience for the customer. For example, it is creating a wish list on the website and continuing your order from any other channel.
Really, omni-channel is an evolved iteration of multi-channel that was created as time went by and systems didn’t have to be disjointed solutions. When technologies like mobile first came out, they were completely separate worlds from existing retail channels that relied heavily on integrations and imports/exports. There were commonly large lags and discrepancies in data due to physical and data limitations of the time. Now that the concepts have been around for a while now and limitations reduced, solutions for that retail channel can be improved with interfaces reduced and optimized if existent at all.
Omni-channel is also a bit of a sales buzz word. Elements of the 360 view existed in systems that were dubbed multi-channel at the time. When things improve significantly, it helps to have a new name or something to distinguish it as new and an improvement. For instance, omni-channel sounds better than multi-channel. Xbox 360 is better than Xbox. PS4 is better than PS2.
However you define and view it, it all boils down to improving a seamless customer experience to assure a consistently exceptional experience. How do you best accomplish this? Have a centralized location for your ‘One version of the truth’.
What are the aspects of the seamless experience?
·         Branding
·         Pricing, Discounts, Shipping, and Taxes
·         Channel Management & Publishing
·         Catalog Management Enrichment & Publishing
·         Customer Management
·         Merchandising
·         EOD & Financials
·         Order Management & Fulfillment
·         BI/Reporting
·         Payment Processing
·         Inventory & Replenishment
As an example of a fully integrated omni-channel situation, if a customer has special pricing for an item at 9am on a specific day, they should be able to engage any retail channel at 9am and see consistent pricing across the board. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you are encounter a situation where it isn’t working. These incongruences between systems is where some internet discount sites get their ‘hacker’ pricing or discounts. When I see these, it always makes me as a consumer second guess if I’m truly getting the best price from the same company.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Retailing in the modern world Pt I - Business marketing and sales channels

I'm going to write a series of posts relating to various retail channels and concepts in each. I hope they are informative to you. This is part one but look for the rest of the series to come out in the next few weeks. That being said, here is post one:

People generally specify marketing channels into two classifications: 1) Business to Business (B2B) and 2) Business to Consumer (B2C). Both channels are geared towards enticing increased revenues by optimizing the sales in retail channels via strategic planning for certain customers. They often share the same retail channels types to accomplish this.

What are the 3 big differences between B2B and B2C channels?

Customers: B2B channels are sales avenues between businesses while B2C are typically sales avenues for end-users of a product or service
Marketing: B2B sales are typically marketed through trade shows or mutual business associations while B2C are marketed through advertising, retail channels, or word of mouth.

Revenue: Generally, B2B transactions are larger in revenue and volume. The volume may be higher in this avenue but at the expense of margin (sales price). Quick note: Overhead may be lower in an organization with no brick and mortar and just B2B via portals and catalog sales

What are the different channels of B2B and B2B retailing?
  1. Brick and Mortar stores
  2. Online (E-commerce) stores (including B2B portals)
  3. Call Centers (telephone orders/support)
  4. Mobile stores
  5. Kiosks 
  6. Catalogs
  7. 3rd party direct sales
As the 'Retailing in the modern world' series goes on, we will look into the above channels in deeper detail in regards to increasing revenue, brand awareness, and leveraging technology to optimize these channels (my favorite topic!).  Stay tuned for more in this series!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

AX 2012 - Conditionally hide a form control by current record

Occasionally we will need to change the accessibility of a certain controls/fields on a form in Dynamics AX. This can either be to hide/disable or show/enable the field from the user based on the current record they are on.

This is a pretty easy mod to do. Just follow the steps below. I'm using the example of hiding the field but you can just disable/enable the field from editing if you want using the allowEdit() property.

Your situation may be more complicated but this is meant to be a simple example. 
  1. Set the target form control's 'AutoDeclaration' property to 'yes'. by default it should be false
  2. For the primary record (e.g. in the grid), override the datasource's active() override if it is not already.
  3. After the super(), put the form control name in with the visible property. If you hit the period after the form control name and nothing pops up, 1) make sure the form control is spelled correctly and 2) check step 1 again to make sure the control has its autoDec set to yes.
    1. If the conditionals for the field to show up are complex, you might have logic and the visible property just assigning true/false, yes/no, etc outright. Example: FormControl_FieldName.visible(true);
    2. If the conditional is simple, like seeing if a field is a boolean or a type of a base enum, you can put the conditional statement in the parameters Example: FormControl_FieldName.visible(DSTableName.BaseEnumField == BaseEnum::Value2);
As an important caveat to changing any control properties on a conditional basis, if appropriate, make sure that you flip the controls to the next appropriate field. Test it out by toggling back and forth between records where the property will keep triggering back and forth.

Test your logic. Its pretty common people will have a field or button default a property to true/false, not not change the field again when moving to a new record. That means that the control will not have the value you want


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The case for renaming AX 2012 R3 Call Center module to Order Management

In AX 2012 R3, there is a new module added called 'Call Center'. This module finally adds the functionality of a call center to the AX backoffice scene. With this, all of the retail functionality that was extended to the various retail channels (POS, ecommerce, mobile, etc) that previously was not available to AX sales orders now is available without the need for backoffice workers to open an instance of the POS.

That being said, a common question I've been getting from colleagues and clients is "What is this 'call center' exactly". Personally, I think the name is misleading and confusing. There are features in that module that everyone wants but not everyone wants a call center. Do they now need a call center to leverage these features? The short answer is no.

To curb this, I've been changing the label of the module from 'Call center' to 'Order management' when I show the functionality. Why? Call centers are a single retail channel. They beg for the image of a person with a headset talking to customers directly either for cold calling, taking orders, or customer service. Order management is not a retail channel and paints a picture of being able to look at sales orders in a broader sense to encompass multiple functions for orders. It also happens to include call centers, club management/continuity orders (like a wine club), order fraud detection across multiple retail channels, catalog management, payment management, etc.  The 'Call centers' module in AX is so much more than just a module for a single retail channel.

While some may disagree with me wanting to change this label, I will respectfully disagree. I was asked questions 100% of the time in regards to why functionality like continuity management and serialized coupons were in call center. Now, the name order management seems to better explain the functionality it has that previously seemed displaced.

The choice is yours!