Technology Record - Issue 27: Winter 2022

160 F E ATUR E together data, AI and collaboration to tackle our customers’ most urgent supply chain challenges.” Empowering store associates with the tools and technologies to work more productively and effectively should also be a high priority. “There’s not a more underserved, or more deserving, group of people than frontline retail workers,” claims Bransten. “Turnover rates in the industry continue to be notoriously high and our most recent research shows that 53 per cent of respondents are more likely to prioritise health and well-being over work than they would have before the pandemic. With that in mind, retailers have never had such an ideal opportunity to better equip, develop and engage their frontline staff.” Bransten cites Microsoft’s partnership with Australian retailer Coles as a notable example. “Coles is currently deploying Microsoft 365 and Teams to transform how its more than 120,000 employees interact with each other,” she says. “Once the Team Member Engagement Platform is live, Coles will be able to streamline everything from managing rosters and swapping shifts to accessing pay slips, procedure manuals and more.” Although prioritising these four areas will help retailers to become more resilient, Bransten cautions that they cannot expect to see instant results. “This is going to be a journey not a master move,” she says. “Data is going to play a huge role in a retailer’s success, but it’s crucial that this data belongs to them and only them. It shouldn’t belong to an outside vendor who uses that data to compete with them, create new revenue streams for themselves or sell back to the retailer. Culturally, that’s a big step for some in the industry.” Another obstacle for many retailers will be to transition from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all mindset. “Retailers need to embrace a culture of continuous learning and optimisation that allows them to try, test, fail and try again,” explains Bransten. “There’s a sea of optimisation opportunities, for example on the demand forecasting side (order less, produce less, markdown less) as well as on the innovation side with concepts like the metaverse.” Bransten predicts that Microsoft’s extensive partner ecosystem will play a pivotal role in developing solutions that will help retailers to make the most of their existing IT investments. Noting that the partner ecosystem was one of the reasons she joined Microsoft in 2018, Bransten says: “In many ways, our partners are our ‘secret sauce’ and a key differentiator for us. So, as we work to solve retailers’ most pressing needs, it’s only natural that we do it together with our incredible partners.” Many of these partners deliver off-the-shelf solutions that leverage proprietary machine learning technology to help retailers be nimbler in recognising in-season demand shifts and rapidly optimise inventory, pricing, promotion and labour allocation decisions. “Partners like SAS, Blue Yonder, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Fractal provide robust analytics that can be rapidly deployed to quickly bring real business value for retailers,” “As we work to solve retailers’ most pressing needs, it’s only natural that we do it together with our incredible partners” SHELLEY BRANSTEN, MICROSOFT