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4 post-pandemic retail trends

The last few decades have seen monumental change in the retail industry. Specifically, technology has untethered the shopper from the store and allowed retail to take place anywhere, at any time. When viewed through hindsight, these changes occurred just in time, for without the e-commerce revolution during the past two decades, retailers would have faced a significantly more difficult situation during the recent pandemic. Nonetheless, innovative companies have been able to adapt and adjust to these challenging times.

Businesses looked to the role of technology in enabling the agility to not only meet emerging customer needs but also to drive lasting impact in their organization’s business efficiency, customer experience, and market position. Patagonia partnered with Microsoft and Dynamics 365 to help navigate through the market turmoil and continue to innovate and drive to meet their business goals.

The pandemic forced many retailers to rethink almost everything related to the purchase experience. Where and how can customers pick up and return their purchased items? How can they pay? What is the utility of a store in an online-first shopping environment? Questions like these are now being answered in ways that will reverberate through the industry long after the pandemic has receded.

Dynamics 365 Commerce user interface across different devices and channels

Dynamics 365 has helped equip retailers with a flexible, unified, and seamless buying experience for customers and partners. With Dynamics 365 Commerce, businesses have been able to engage across traditional and emerging channels while allowing consumers the option to buy when, how, and where they wanton any deviceby delivering a frictionless and consistent experience across online and offline channels.

As we continue through the pandemic, both shoppers and retailers will have to adapt to a new normal. Let’s take a closer look at some trends that will persist in retail for the time to come.

1. Flexible order fulfillment

2020 ushered in the mass adoption of non-traditional fulfillment opportunities. One of these new methods that became essential during the past year is BOPIS, or buy-online-pick-up-in-store. As the pandemic unfolded, retailers saw a 208 percent increase in BOPIS from the previous year as customers gravitated to the increased convenience and choice that flexible order fulfillment offered. This accelerated a trend that had been gaining ground in some industries, like grocery, and saw it spread to retail sectors of all kinds.

2. Flexible returns

Like flexible order fulfillment, flexible returns provide the customer with increased convenience, this time related to items they no longer need or are not satisfied with. Returns are costly, and COVID-19 supercharged their numbers, with 2020 seeing consumers return $428 billion in merchandise, with $102 billion attributed to online purchasing, up 38.5 percent from 2019. As we move forward, the challenge will be for retailers to manage costs around returns without depriving consumers of the ease of returns they came to expect during the pandemic.

3. Contactless payments

Of all the trends mentioned in this blog, contactless payment via radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication technology was perhaps the most widely adopted before the pandemic. Even at that, the need for increased cleanliness protocols and a desire to avoid touching surfaces where possible meant that the use of contactless payments has increased by 30 percent since COVID-19 started. With continued growth expected, savvy retailers will no longer allow the purchase experience to be tethered to specific locations or modes of payment.

4. Omnichannel retail

Like contactless payments, omnichannel retail plans had already been a high priority for many companies pre-COVID-19. However, the pandemic forced many retailers to speed up transitions from mostly brick-and-mortar to a proper omnichannel solution. Omnichannel has become an absolute requirement for modern retailers to survive. Part of this transition includes a re-thinking of the physical store itself. Rather than acting as the critical location in the retail journeya place for customers to browse for and purchase itemsthe store now serves as a place for customers to see, touch, and feel items they have discovered through other shopping channels before final purchase.

Microsoft is helping retailers deliver on their brand promises

In each of the trends mentioned, consumers rushed to welcome the added flexibility to the retail experience. As we continue through the pandemic and return to a new normal, consumers will be reticent to give their newfound conveniences.

Cloud for Retail offer and affiliated retail scenario outcomes

At January NRF we announced Microsoft Cloud for Retail to help retailers deliver seamless experiences across the entire buying journey, and recently we announced even more capabilities within the Microsoft Cloud for Retail public preview to help businesses build flexibility into their systems in order to thrive in the post-pandemic world.

What’s next?

The post 4 post-pandemic retail trends appeared first on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog.

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Power Fx: Error handling graduates to preview

We are thrilled to announce that the long-time experimental feature Formula-level error handling has moved forward to preview. As a result, you and your end users will enjoy higher reliability and more transparency about what is happening in your apps. It’s a huge step. Adding error handling to an existing language turned out to be a very tall order, touching almost everything, from data types, to functions, to the runtime. Thank you for all of your support, feedback, and patience as we got this done. What does it mean for you? Your apps will more reliably detect and report errors.You can write blank/null values to a database.You can detect and replace errors with the IsError, IsErrorOrBlank, and IfError functions.You can control error reporting and logging at a central location with App.OnError.You can create and throw your own custom errors with the Error function. Error handling is a big change in behavior. By entering preview, we are signaling that we believe we are done, that we anticipate no further significant changes from here. Many of you already use error handling in production and this move to preview should only embolden more of you to do so. If significant changes are needed from here, we will treat them as a separate feature. We are rolling this out slowly as it is such a big change. All of you will soon see that the Formula-level error handling switch has moved from experimental to preview in the settings (as of version 3.22082). It will still be default to off for most tenants. Over the coming weeks we will slowly change the default for new apps only to on across the tenants. Makers can still disable this feature and will be able to do so for a long time. I say again: we are changing the default for new apps only. Existing apps will continue running as they always have. We have no plans at this time to turn this on for existing apps, and as this is such a big change, we may never do this and make this a permanently available switch. Your feedback will guide us. The documentation for Error, IfError, IsError, IsErrorOrBlank functions and the App.OnError property covers these changes. IfError and IsError are very similar to their Excel counterparts. We are also working on overview docs that will be released shortly. But before that, let’s take a brief tour. Let’s start with what Excel does, the inspiration for Power Fx. For an error like division by zero, Excel is very clear that something has gone wrong with a # error message that shows right in the cell. This error will propagate to other cell formulas if A1 is used in a formula: Today, without error handling, Power Apps won’t report anything in this scenario, instead treating the division by zero error as a blank value. That’s not good, as the maker and the end user of the app have no idea something may have gone wrong: Errors happen. Unexpected data flows in, networks go down, storage fills up, to name just a few situations that an app may encounter in the real world. Makers don’t often think through all the ways that things can go sideways which makes default error handling even more important. Returning a blank for an error is also a problem because blank is a legitimate value in our type system and in many databases. Without error handling, Power Apps won’t allow you to write a blank to a database instead thinking it is an error. So, instead of returning an easy to ignore or misinterpret blank value, with error handling turned on we now report an error to the end user (the error banner) and show the formula as having an error to the maker (the red filled in circle on the control): Further, if you look at the value of the formula, it is not a blank but an error value. Just as any formula can result in a blank, now any formula can also result in an error: Now, we still aren’t showing an error in the label control itself as Excel does. We couldn’t do this generically because, unlike Excel, the error could be on a property of a control for which there is no way to display the error. For example, where should an error on a slider control? Where should an error be shown for an imperative operation in the middle of a button’s OnSelect formula? We settled on showing the end user banner and flagging the control in the design experience. That’s not to say you can’t detect and display an error in that label control. Error handling provides a wealth of mechanisms to control how errors are handled and reported. For example in this case, we can wrap the division by zero with an IfError function to return a custom message in the label: The Text function call is required for type compatibility. Or we can use IfError to throw a different, more specific error with the Error function: Or we can have a catchall for all errors in the app with App.OnError. For example, we can log the error and present a different message to the end user: If we look at the log, we see the details of the captured error from FirstError (and there is also an AllErrors), including where it happened and when it was detected: The possibilities are endless! You now have all the tools you need to detect, replace, report, and log errors, including a good default behavior if you never take advantage of these tools. And, bonus, you can also now write blank (or null) values to databases. Please let us know what you think in the Power Apps community forum. There is a dedicated and active space for error handling discussions at Error Handling – Power Platform Community (microsoft.com).

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