Microsoft Enhances Retail Products Relationships at NRF Conference

Microsoft is using the National Retail Federation's 103rd Annual Convention and EXPO in New York City this week to announce a number of enhancements to its Dynamics AX 2012 product and its Dynamics for Retail, which will reportedly provide retailers with better ways to manage their customer experiences. Microsoft is also using the convention to announce an extended partnership with IBM, Sitecore and Vantiv.

Dynamics AX and IBM

While the principal Microsoft announcement at the convention is the deepening relationship between its Dynamics Retail product and its Dynamics AX 2012 product, the news around the IBM partnership and the new Sitecore-Dynamics relationship are also significant.

Microsoft and IBM already work with each other in the retail space, but according to statements from the convention, this “expanded” relationship will result in the development and deployment of differentiated intellectual property to customer-facing retailers. In short, this means new IT systems that will combine the enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities of Microsoft’s Dynamics AX 2012 R3 with IBM retail software.

While Dynamics AX 2012 R3 is to go on general release in April this year, it was previewed at the Dynamics Convergence 2013 EMEA. The result is that, from what we can see, the new partnership should benefit from the new functionality that is being added to the transportation, logistics, and warehouse capabilities of AX 2012 R3.

Microsoft and Sitecore

However, the partnership with IBM is not the only improvement to its customer experience strategy that Microsoft announced. It also unveiled a new partnership with customer experience management (CXM) heavyweight Sitcore, who will integrate its CXM platform with Microsoft Dynamics for Retail.

This combined solution will give businesses the ability to design and execute fully connected digital retail experiences. With it, enterprises will be able to build connected online experiences optimized for the behaviors, devices and preferences of visitors with complete, real-time, omnichannel order management. Darren Guarnaccia, Chief Strategy Officer at Sitecore said:

This joint solution will bridge the gap between in-store and digital experiences. Sitecore’s experience platform harnesses the power of real-time data insights to deliver a deep understanding of customers’ preferences, wants and needs."

He added that the integrated solutions will offer real-time data insights to personalize and deliver consistent brand experiences both online, in-store, and through any channel.

Keep in mind in respect of this partnership that Sitecore has previously said that it will be releasing a number of major upgrades over the year that should feed into this partnership, with a significant release already provisionally flagged for March.

Microsoft and Vantiv

Microsoft has also used the convention to announce a new partnership with payment processing vendor Vantiv to provide a new range of solutions for mobile POS (Point-of-Sales) and cloud-connected payments that will facilitate easier online retailing.

The combination of Microsoft's Dynamics for Retail and Vantiv's processing services and support will enable simple mobile payment collection in the field, to individual direct sales transactions, to retail store operations, and enhanced customer experiences.

Elizabeth Rector, senior vice president of e-commerce and mobile at Vantiv says that the team-up will "enable an entirely new scale of mobile payment solutions, delivering a true 360-degree experience to midmarket and enterprise merchants across any vertical."

While the extended partnership with IBM is interesting in itself, as is the partnership with Sitecore and Vantiv, the real interest is the enhanced dovetailing between Dynamics for Retail and Dynamics AX 2012 R3, which will be released later in the year.

The enhancements also correspond with a growing interest — or frustration — in online retail and developing better customer experiences. How Microsoft manages this will become clearer once Dynamics AX 2012 R3 goes on general release in April this year.

Title image by alexmillos (Shutterstock).