Microsoft is in New York City for the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2016, the annual showcase for everything new in retail. This year, it’s all about the customer, and I’m excited to highlight innovations that keep customers at the center of the retail experience – from new ways to engage with shoppers to modern technology that speeds up the checkout process.
This renewed, customer-focused approach is part of an evolution from omni-channel to unified commerce, in which shoppers no longer have to choose between the rich selection of online shopping and the service and attention of an in-store experience. Instead, new tools, systems and solutions, including the power of the cloud, create a truly seamless customer experience across digital retail and the brick-and-mortar store.
On the NRF show floor, we’ll be unveiling new solutions and retail customer implementations that bring this experience to life, including a brand engagement tool from L’Oréal and an app that enables a whole new way to shop for groceries. The new technologies are helping retailers create the next level of customer service, with more personalized interactions supported by machine learning, analytics and the cloud. They parallel the power of Microsoft’s existing solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics for Retail, which runs across devices from cash registers to tablets for seamless inventory management, enterprise resource planning and information-sharing.
With Microsoft’s new solutions, retailers can now see which aisles are drawing shoppers’ attention, present customized offers in real time, manage inventory and streamline the checkout process. Stores can now capture a level of insight previously only available through Web analytics, enabling retailers to offer memorable, immersive experiences that build customer loyalty and engagement.
Newly affordable in-store technologies such as beacons, near-field communications and Wi-Fi networks help retailers track customers’ movements to give them valuable product information they want, when they want it, in an unobtrusive way. A retailer can now see when a shopper is viewing specific cosmetics and offer a tailored discount, and a shopper can use a smartphone to scan a product to see ingredients or usage directions. This seamless flow of information across devices, from corporate systems to a customer’s phone, enables retailers to engage with individuals as never before.
Customers and technologies we’re showcasing
At NRF this year, we’re showcasing a number of Microsoft customers who are testing and deploying modern retail solutions that are helping them increase sales, build loyalty and transform their business.
- L’Oréal Paris is partnering with TokyWoky to build a CRM solution using Microsoft Azure cloud and analytics technologies that leveraged crowd-sourcing to give customers real-life insights from fellow users of L’Oréal beauty products. The next evolution of the tool will use Power BI to generate data reports to learn more about visitor concerns and transformations.
- Mondelez International is demonstrating the diji-touch vending machine, whose interactive 3-D digital display lets customers view products and nutrition information, and receive advertising alerts about promotions and games where they have the opportunity to get free samples. The Windows 10 universal app also allows more efficient and proactive maintenance and support for the machines, while the Azure IoT Dashboard tracks inventory levels and displays machine error notifications and the exact locations for tech support in the field.
Gerrity’s Supermarkets in Pennsylvania is partnering with SKIP to implement a phone-based app that lets customers scan groceries and bag as they go, then skip the lines and use a dedicated express checkout lane. Shoppers using SKIP check out in a fraction of the time it takes other shoppers to scan and pay.
- Fnac is using Office 365, Skype for Business and Yammer to streamline collaboration, empower employees and connect its stores and headquarters. The tools help employees of the French electronics and cultural products retailer get product information, share insights and provide exceptional service to shoppers.
Microsoft is also demonstrating technologies now in test deployments or on the cusp of becoming more widely available.
- ByteLight technology, from Acuity Brands Lighting, integrates intelligent LED lighting systems with Bluetooth communication and Microsoft Azure cloud services to provide a location awareness solution that lets retailers deliver apps, services and customized information to shoppers.
- AVA Retail is demonstrating an in-store shopper data solution that uses Kinect to monitor customer activity on the sales floor and Azure to help associates see where to offer assistance.
- Digimarc is demonstrating imperceptible bar codes, a special design that can be seen by registers and smartphone scanners, but not the naked eye, which helps cashiers scan items more quickly and speed up the checkout process.
- FreedomPay is showing its latest commerce platform with Compass Group hosted on Azure. The EMV-ready payment terminals, coupled with PCI-validated point-to-point encryption (P2PE), are the industry’s highest standard for payment data security.
Microsoft has also developed a new Windows 10 point of sale (POS) solution that use Windows devices to make the traditional stationary POS terminal a mobile, secure workstation for retail associates. You can read more about our partner solutions in retail here. And more customer stories including Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Telstra are chronicled on the Windows For Your Business Blog.
We’re excited to showcase Microsoft technologies that help retailers offer new heights of personalized, customer service, with scalable, cost-effective and secure solutions.
If you’re attending NRF this week, be sure to visit Microsoft in booth 2803 to see unified commerce in action.