Technology Record - Issue 27: Winter 2022

158 F E ATUR E adapt and embrace the only constant right now, and that’s change. As our CEO Satya Nadella says: ‘digital technology is a deflationary force in an inflationary economy’. That’s why building resilience through digital technology is going to be key today and beyond.” Certainly, the ability to harness the power of digital technology has been a vital factor for the continued success of leading retailers since the start of the pandemic. “Despite everything we’ve seen in the past two years, the customer context continues to change at breakneck speed, and I don’t know where we’d be today if many of the brands and retailers we work with had not accelerated their digital technology investments,” says Bransten. “From kerbside pickup to virtual outfitting appointments, artificial intelligencedriven supply chains and more, our customers have woven digital technology into the very fabric of their operations. Not only has this enabled them to weather the storm of the pandemic but it’s also empowering them to do more with less. It’s clear that retailers who laid their digital tracks early were better equipped to respond, recover and reimagine their businesses than those that did not.” While many retailers recognise that digital transformation is critical to building both short and long-term resilience, many are keen to do more with less by capitalising on their existing technology investments. However, they are struggling to know where to start. “There’s no silver bullet,” says Bransten. “It’s not just about reducing spend, cutting costs and optimising in the here and now; it’s also about the innovation agenda and investing for the future.” There are, however, four priorities retailers can focus on to become more resilient, says Bransten. First, she recommends that they learn how to maximise the value of their data. “Everything we do today generates data – whether it’s scrolling through our daily news feed, completing our morning workout, internet banking, shopping or sharing a special moment from the weekend on Instagram,” she says. “In fact, 40 petabytes of data is generated every hour in retail. Yet, 90 per cent of the world’s data is ‘dark’ or unstructured, so it’s no wonder that retailers tell us they are still struggling with siloed enterprise data, limited operational visibility, anonymous shoppers and more. “We’re partnering with leading retailers like Walmart, ASOS and many others across the globe to break down those data silos so they can optimise purchasing, distribution, pricing, labour and so much more.” Once they can capture and aggregate data from multiple sources, retailers and consumer goods firms must analyse it for actionable insights that can be used to elevate the shopping experience. “Data is the signal not a sideshow – and the more signal retailers have across the shopper journey, the more personalisation and optimisation they’re able to deliver, which will ultimately improve conversion rates and profitability,” says Bransten. “The physical store is the next frontier for digitalisation, so retailers must explore how to transform the in-store shopping experience. Microsoft partners like SES-Imagotag and Ombori are a driving force in this space and I’m excited by AiFi’s visionpowered autonomous stores, which are now open in over 80 locations worldwide.” Retailers should also invest in building a real-time, sustainable supply chain. “While cost and price have been two of the dominant themes in retail in 2022, the supply chain pains of 2021 are still very real, which is why we recently introduced the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform,” says Bransten. “It’s time to transform supply chain operations by bringing