The Arabian Gulf region is teeming with innovation. Government and private-sector initiatives are seizing the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, as a result, entire economies are taking significant forward leaps, says Karim Talhouk, Dynamics 365 Lead, Microsoft Gulf.
Digital transformation – the power to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and revolutionise products and services – has become the revolution’s standard-bearer and is occupying the minds of many a boardroom.
As with previous industrial revolutions, the scramble to be first to the lightbulb is intense. Competition is fierce. The pressure to increase sales now, today – coupled with the forthcoming obligation of compliance with regionwide VAT regulations – is leading many to consider the suitability of their commerce platform.
Sales professionals are on the frontline of a daily war to ensure that their company is not one of those left behind in the wake of the digital-innovation tsunami. Technology platforms need to support them in converting relationships and leads into revenue. The ability to syphon off the right data and deliver actionable intelligence to predict customer needs, optimise stock levels, monitor the supply chain and identify possible areas for operational improvement, is vital.
In the manufacturing sector, the Internet of Things – now provided for by some ERP platforms, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 – is taking a central role in digital transformation projects. Operations are being optimised across the Gulf region by shrewd use of this emerging technology standard, as manufacturing businesses become convinced of its benefits.
IoT-integrated ERP and Field Service solutions can be used to track land, sea and air fleets and shipments; they can be used to track customers; and they can be used to monitor products, premises and supply chains.
Connected by the ever-present cloud, these solutions allow manufacturers to lower operating costs by more quickly identifying and addressing inefficiencies. The cloud also eliminates the inconvenience of geography, by enabling live collaboration of teams separated by oceans. And, through its flexibility, the cloud further enhances customer experiences, by allowing the manufacturer to adapt quickly to changing preferences.
Because of IoT, deep monitoring of the entire operational chain becomes possible. Innovation becomes a daily activity, as agile analytics converts gathered data into actionable insights. Indeed, the business model itself is in constant flux, being tweaked in real time to better serve both the manufacturer and its customers.
Juggling the changing needs of shoppers who are increasingly digital natives is fraught with challenges. Millennials were born into data jungles, where they have become adept at foraging for information on products before buying. Although recent data suggests most sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores, a 2017 eMarketer survey in the US saw 89% of marketing professionals reporting a substantial increase in revenues when their company’s apps and websites were personalised for their customers.
Within stores themselves, millennials will come to expect mobile points of sale. In retail companies across the GCC, face-to-face services are being transformed right now, with customer service agents able to resolve queries and take payments on the sales floor, through handheld devices.
Keeping up with the demands of these e-shoppers requires a unified commerce platform that is tied in to all aspects of the business, from websites and apps, to the stockroom and sales floor. Retailers need to form a deep and meaningful profile of each customer across every possible channel of activity, so experiences can be personalised. This will allow smart, live, on-floor delivery of purchase recommendations that empower the sales agent and make sense to the consumer. The platform must also support cross-channel analytics and intelligent forecasting, to optimise stock levels and supply-chain efficiency.
All of this, when in place, can ensure a customer is never disappointed. That not only means they are likely to come back for more, but as digital natives, they will be strongly disposed towards becoming an ambassador for the brand that has inspired them.
Get it right – digitally transform
Remember, the right commerce solution should allow you to optimise operations with intelligent business insights, empower employees to deliver tangible business growth, and inspire customers with standout experiences.
The potential for customer-brand ambassadorship, and therefore boosted sales, is there to be grabbed, but that advocacy starts with the commerce platform, and its ability to put you in control of your own innovation.