Was 2018 the year Microsoft changed the face of retail?

Was 2018 the year Microsoft changed the face of retail?
The Azure cloud, HoloLens, AI and chatbots are transforming how we shop 

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Microsoft technology is transforming every aspect of the retail industry. Through the implementation of technologies including Azure, HoloLens and artificial intelligence (AI), retailers are better meeting customer expectations and creating innovative new experiences. 

Earlier this year, for example, US based global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen partnered with Microsoft, using the Azure cloud to build its enterprise data solution, Nielsen Connect. The solution uses advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) services to help companies spot trends and diagnose performance gaps, reimagining the industry’s approach to using data. The collaboration aimed to accelerate the growth and innovation of retail companies by creating a more connected data environment. 

“We are helping the retail industry reimagine its approach to data by creating a truly open and global environment of collaboration, encouraging companies to evolve beyond mere data management,” said John Tavolieri, president of US FMCG Retail and chief officer of Technology and Operations at Nielsen. “Adopting a holistic data strategy will be the only way to win in FMCG and retail.” 

Global retail brand Gap, meanwhile, has signed a deal to adopt Microsoft Azure to accelerate its mobile and digital capabilities, modernising its supply chain and offering a more seamless shopping experience for customers. 

“Gap is focused on using technology to transform how we provide a frictionless customer experience wherever and however our customer wants to shop,” said Sally Gilligan, chief information officer at Gap Inc. “Our journey and partnership with Microsoft will enable us to be more resilient and stable as a platform, scale more efficiently, and innovate and build solutions faster.”

Gap is also building a data platform on Azure to enable personalised shopping experiences and faster responses to a changing retail landscape. 

“We’ve seen a huge transformation in the whole retail industry in shopping patterns,” Murthy said. “Our online business continues to grow, so we need to make sure our platform is fast, responsive and able to scale.”

Microsoft technology is even transforming point of sale (POS). In order to deliver the same seamless, personalised and connected shopping experience to customers in-store, online and through mobile apps, retailers are using platforms like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail. The solution offers a modern POS module to enable retailers to use PCs, tablets, and phones to process sales transactions and customer orders, as well as to manage daily operations and inventory. Integrating these omnichannel functions into their POS systems means retailers can facilitate payments as well as capturing customer preference data and more. 

 “Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail uses Microsoft’s cloud-based enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management suites to deliver end-to-end integration of all sales-related processes,” Vic Miles, director of Retail Technology Strategy at Microsoft, told us earlier this year. “It consolidates merchandising, fulfilment, POS and promotions operations into a single platform, allowing retailers to gain a full overview of customers’ individual journeys and personalise each point of contact to drive loyalty.”

AI is also entering our stores, with technology like chatbots helping customers find products and employees check stock in-store at UK-based electronics retailer Dixons Carphone. 

Similarly, US home improvement retailer Lowe’s is using cognitive AI and Microsoft HoloLens so that customers can plan their kitchen renovations using mixed reality. 


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