This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of Speak
Microsoft research has revealed that today’s average household has ten connected devices – from mobiles and tablets to games consoles – and that these devices are changing the way that we approach our daily lives. Indeed, our new digital lifestyle allows us all to work, play, create, and share in a more joined up way and on our own terms.
Recognising this shift in how we embrace technology, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has shared his vision for the company to focus on building productivity experiences and platforms for the mobile-first, cloud-first world. To achieve its aims, Microsoft will continue to evolve popular productivity products such as Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Bing and Dynamics, and make them available across multiple platforms, including Mac, iOS and Android. “Pretty much everything we do is going to be digitised,” Nadella said in a recent press briefing. “That means every interaction we as humans have with other humans, every interaction that we have with machines, and the interactions between machines is all going to get digitised more rapidly than ever before in our history.”
Nadella went on to explain that the exponential growth across connected users, connected devices and applications is what is leading to significant growth of the cloud – and that this is where Microsoft is concentrating its efforts. “Microsoft is focused on delivering the cloud for everyone, on every device,” he said. “It’s a unique approach that centres on people – enabling you to work with the devices and services you love, in a way that works for IT and developers.”
This has huge implications for the retail industry, and will benefit retailers and customers alike. “Connectivity and access to information benefits everyone,” explains Brendan O’Meara, managing director of worldwide retail at Microsoft. “Shoppers in particular are thirsty for information that helps them make better, more informed buying decisions that are not just based on price, but on the entire value proposition. Convenience is a big part of this – both in terms of helping customers find what they are looking for, when they want it and how they want it.”
This ability for customers to get the information they want on any device, and at any location, adds a lot of value as they progress through the shopping journey. “In addition to convenience, the shopping experience itself is critical. An optimal connected shopping experience allows customers to have fun and to be social in how they browse, evaluate, share and review products. It also gives them confidence they’re making the right decisions,” O’Meara says. “Information inspires confidence leading to increased conversion and the opportunity to extend the basket. Shoppers are satisfied with the successful shopping trip, and retailers increase revenue – everybody wins.”
Microsoft is committed to helping retailers to leverage mobile and cloud-based applications in a way that meets their individual needs. It is doing this through a unique strategy which provides a fabric for delivering solutions that are connected, informative and fun. “Microsoft is giving retailers the option to implement the cloud in the way that is practical, suited to their business, and based on value delivery,” O’Meara explains.
“Microsoft enables retailers to deploy hybrid environments where some information is stored in a data centre, some in the cloud – but manage it all in one consistent and leveraged way. They can use the same technologies that give them the benefits of the public cloud in their own data centre or in a partner’s data centre. It’s a real-world cloud approach that works across all the different workloads. It doesn’t require a risky big bang strategy. And it puts business value ahead of technological purity.”
Another unique factor about Microsoft’s offering is that retailers don’t have to pick a particular device in order to get a particular service. “There are new devices being launched all the time,” O’Meara explains. “Retailers want to be able to choose the devices that their employees and customers love and deliver seamless experiences that increasingly are served from the cloud. Having choice is critical – retailers don’t want to lock themselves into one solution; they want to bet their future on an enterprise ecosystem where there’s a lot of innovation around the experiences they need today and the ones they haven’t even dreamed of for tomorrow.”
Microsoft is also investing heavily in developing an enterprise platform and a partner ecosystem that delivers the high value mobile-first, cloud-first solutions for the industry. “There’s a significant amount of focus and investment in helping those who are developing solutions to do so in a way that leverages the capability of mobile devices and the cloud, even when the apps are targeted at a variety of mobile devices from different manufacturers,” O’Meara says. “It’s important that solutions can be managed, secured and updated in a way that is beneficial to retailers, their employees and their customers.”
These considerations become even more important as the industry evolves. “Having a portfolio of different applications, and being able to manage them, has been a messy business until now,” he says. “The Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) helps retailers leverage devices and services in an integrated and economical way. EMS provides the comprehensive identity, management, and security that is mandatory for enterprise class solutions, without compromising support for popular devices and applications. EMS includes Windows Intune, Azure Active Directory Premium and Azure Rights Management Services to give IT the tools they need to help protect corporate assets and enable people to work on the devices they love.”
Overall, the Microsoft proposition allows retailers to innovate and drive forward the experiences that matter to shoppers and their business in a hybrid environment.
“The retail industry continues to move at a breakneck pace and, in today’s always-on, anywhere-commerce world, the most important thing that a retailer can do to guarantee success and longevity is deliver amazing customer experiences,” says Luke Shave, Microsoft’s senior global marketing manager for Microsoft Dynamics for Retail. “To do this, they need to be both nimble and responsive to changes in the industry and in customer demand – this is where Microsoft plays a critical role.”
“The Microsoft proposition allows retailers to leverage existing backend systems, wherever they reside, and delivers experiences that work across all of the mobile devices that the shopper and their employees care about, enabling immediate value to be delivered to the business,” O’Meara concludes. “It represents the coming together of the consumer and enterprise experience. There’s no longer a separate experience online, in store and on mobile, instead there’s a seamless connected continuum that customers and employees have never had before.”
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