Thursday, 13 April 2017 13:43

City Beach goes digital – 1011011101

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Iconic Australian fashion retailer City Beach has completed stage one of its “digital transformation”.

Established in 1985, the 62-site which has 60,000+ products, and bricks and mortar stores predates online retail and the Internet.

Its legacy infrastructure limited its ability to store customer data, which made it difficult to maintain relevance among its customer base. In partnership with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partner Sable37City Beach can now collect rich insights about their customers and refine its communications to be more customer focused through the implementation of Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365.

Chief operating officer Anita Dorwald has a clear view of the challenges ahead. “Our vision is a blend of continued growth and survival, and while the latter may come as a surprise we have seen the demise of many brands around us in recent years. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels or past successes. To trade on brand equity, we need to maintain relevance now and in the future.”

When the company decided to overhaul its information systems it took a measured and careful approach. It wanted to deliver an exceptional customer experience in-store and on-line and to pave the way for a back-office overhaul that would inject efficiency, boost productivity, and establish a robust and reliable infrastructure able to deliver the sort of agility needed by successful retailers in the digital age.

Of technology transformation, Dorwald says, “The key is that you have to have absolute clarity about what you are trying to achieve and your priority – that needs to guide your journey. You need to understand your capacity for change and the core objectives you want to achieve. That should drive the order of transformation – in terms of business outcome you achieve a far better result.”

“For us, the customer needed to be front and centre which explains City Beach’s decision to focus initially on a point of sale (POS) and customer relationship management (CRM) overhaul ahead of a back-office core system revamp,” she said.

“We want to understand the customer journey and achieve a single view of the customer, to be able to interface with more agility around promotions, and have an opportunity around loyalty programs. That was what drove the decision to go front-to-back rather than back-to-front. It’s a decision that is paying off in terms of immediate business impact,” she said.

Leveraging Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations has delivered flexibility and scalability. At present City Beach is operating a hybrid cloud and on-premise environment, but as it refreshes the back-office legacy platform the company will take a cloud-first approach. “Long term, we see everything in the cloud,” she adds.

Working with Microsoft partner and Dynamics 365 specialist Sable37, City Beach undertook a lengthy needs analysis and prototyping project to ensure the customer experience was right.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations has now been rolled out with full integration of the systems happening after the Christmas and New Year retail rush. One of the immediate signs the solution was right came from the retailers’ own staff – most of whom come from the same youth demographic as City Beach customers.

Dorwald explains some of the benefits in her words.

"Dynamics’ user interface was so intuitive and responsive to changing conditions that there was barely any change management required – staff just started to use the system.

"This represented the single greatest investment in technology in the last ten years – so there was a high level of nervousness.  The reality was the teams in store logged on and largely found their own way around – that ease of adoption bodes well for other changes we’re looking to make.

"Our new CRM allows us to validate what was a gut science. Dynamics allows us to gather data in a practical sense and really target our communications — EDMs and social interactions — and map out our website in 2017 to be more customer focused with that new insight.”

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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