At a press event last week, Microsoft previewed a slew of updates to its Dynamics 365 suite of applications. Microsoft shares closed 1.16% lower on Friday, Sept. 20 and are up 39% so far this year.
Microsoft's Dynamics 365 suite, which includes a broad range of apps enterprises use, overlaps with Salesforce's CRM (CRM) - Get Report as well as others, such as SAP (SAP) - Get Report and Oracle's (ORCL) - Get Report Netsuite. With this latest update to Dynamics 365, Microsoft is particularly honed in on retail and commerce use cases: Two entirely new offerings include a commerce cloud and a connected store cloud, which are geared at both online and offline retailers.
The connected store offering, Microsoft said last Friday, helps physical stores to bring together and analyze various forms of real-world data sources, from security cameras to more sophisticated sensor systems. Company officials described more basic use cases, such as a temperature sensor used to alert workers of storage problems at an ice cream shop, to larger retailers outfitted with cameras and sensors that aid with inventory, customer service and other issues.
The commerce cloud, meanwhile, is described as a comprehensive solution that helps ecommerce and retail companies to "better unify in-store, call center, and digital experiences," said Alysa Taylor, a VP of Microsoft's business applications & global industry group. Each of the cloud offerings are available a la carte.
Outside of the connected store and commerce clouds, Microsoft is also updating various existing applications in the Dynamics 365 portfolio.
Those include new capabilities geared at customer service functions, such as improvements to a Virtual Assistant feature that allows businesses to embed bots on their websites to respond to basic customer queries. It's also fleshed out a customer insights platform to extend beyond basic customer service scenarios, and a new product insights platform that tracks issues and anomalies with connected devices, such as dishwashers or other appliances.
Others include capabilities to inventory management, such as an IoT intelligence function in Microsoft's supply chain management cloud. Those features are intended to help businesses better manage production, stock, maintenance, equipment performance and other critical functions along supply chains.
Microsoft also said that a new fraud prevention tool, also geared at sellers, will be generally available later this year.
Taylor described the updates as part of a comprehensive suite that brings together Microsoft's Azure, advancements in AI and machine learning, and the various capabilities across the Dynamics 365 portfolio.
"Our goal is to be able to free organizations from the data silos that plague them," she said.
Microsoft and Salesforce are key holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus portfolio.