A lot has changed in the retail sector since Michael Hill first opened in 1979 – with the way in which consumers shop and the personal shopping experience they encounter topping the list.
Today, Michael Hill operates more than 350 physical stores in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, as well as four online outlets.
Matt Keays, Michael Hill’s chief information officer, says over the next five to seven years the company plans to open hundreds of stores internationally.
Keays says the company understands there is no room for complacency and that it needs to transform itself to ensure its future is as successful as its past.
To enable this expansion, Keays says the company will create a robust yet flexible information systems platform with the help of Microsoft Dynamics Partner Sable37, which is known for its CRM expertise.
By leveraging Sable37’s knowledge and expertise in the retail sector and its understanding of the Microsoft ecosystem, the duo will build a system designed to incorporate customisations around the edges of the core stack with Sable37’s end-to-end solution for retailers, Retail37.
“We are an enabler of the growth expansion strategy – we need to empower people,” says Keays.
“We want to go on a journey with our customers thanks to much richer information about their behaviours, tastes and preferences.”
The foundation for that insight engine is a new point of sale (POS) system which is a feature of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations running on Microsoft Azure.
The “clientelling” solution provides a platform for company-wide digital transformation, delivering employees with deeper customer insights – but also with tools and back end systems that inject efficiency, allowing personalised, faster and more effective customer-staff interactions.
Keays says the efficiency derived from using the cloud based Dynamics 365 for Operations retail solution should ultimately mean transactions can flow faster, with less human input, but acknowledges that there has been disruption for the stores to navigate while the technology foundations are put in place.
The company has also shifted its administrative tasks to the cloud, and already uses Office 365, which are all steps Michael Hill is taking to streamline tasks and to give retail staff more time with customers rather than doing administrative tasks.
And the stack is also providing greater transparency for executives, explains Keays.
“I found the Microsoft technology stack is quite open and it’s easy to get information out and plug into reporting systems.”
Moreover, the solution has been designed to underpin future e-marketing and e-commerce initiatives and in time allow Michael Hill to reach even remote customers not currently served by close physical retail outlets.
IT teams will also benefit from the move to cloud computing, says Keays.
“IT team should be liberated from much of the grind of systems management.”
This will free Keays and his team up to spend more time with business users providing strategic advice and training about how to leverage and use technology to improve business outcomes.
“We have seen that already with the Office 365 rollout,” he adds.
“The benefits from the point of view of maintenance and scalability are paramount. All the work behind the scenes to operate systems to manage disaster recovery – all that pain is taken away. It allows us to become advisors and business partners.”
While Keays notes that companies considering a move to the cloud needed to carefully assess the total costs of a move to the cloud, he is clear that cloud’s “agility is second to none."