Announcing Microsoft Cloud for Retail: Built for what’s next

2020 was the year in which we experienced disruptive change at a pace and a scale that we could never have imagined. Yet it was also the year in which many retailers embraced digital like never before. Take REI for example, which launched a new virtual outfitting service to help customers assemble bikes, find the right hiking boots, and gear up for camping trips using Microsoft Teams. Retailers who laid their digital tracks early were more agile, resilient, and ultimately positioned for growth. I’m optimistic about the future of retail and excited by the opportunity faced in retail. But as we all know, the journey past the COVID-19 pandemic has only just begun.  

That’s why we thrilled to announce the availability of Microsoft Cloud for Retail public preview beginning on March 31.  

Microsoft Cloud for Retail at-a-glance

At Microsoft, we are committed to helping retailers by working side-by-side with them to co-innovate and co-develop next-generation solutions that address their most pressing business opportunities. Retail is 31 percent of the world’s GDP and that data is the demand signal for the world. Microsoft Cloud for Retail data services consolidates disparate customer data sources—your data, your suppliers’ data, the data you don’t even know about yet—to uncover actionable insights in minutes, not days. Discover retail insights from all data sources—data warehouses, data lakes, and big data analytics systems—with a single, unified experience at any point in the shopper journey.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail uniquely connects experiences across the end-to-end shopper journey, using a set of capabilities that deliver more relevant personalized experiences and operational excellence for sustained profitability. Few retailers have the budget or infrastructure to “rip and replace.” Microsoft Cloud for Retail starts with a modular framework so retailers can innovate as they go. This modular and deployable solution activates both end-to-end services like curbside pickup or standalone services like Intelligent Recommendations. Microsoft Cloud for Retail is designed to give retailers the flexibility to adopt the capabilities they need to address their most pressing business needs, be it better knowing customers, empowering employees, building resilient supply chains, or reimagining retail.

“We are excited to explore Microsoft Cloud for Retail as a crucial tool to bring together our stores, product, and marketing systems and unlock the power of our data,” Britten Maughan, SVP of Product and Partnerships, Lids.

Infographic of the Microsoft Cloud for Retail capabilities

Let’s take a closer look at how we are integrating capabilities across the shopper journey.

Demand generation

Driving interest and awareness in your product or service is the beginning of the shopper journey. Using the right digital marketing channels with the right solution is critical in attracting new customers.

  • E-commerce personalization. Showcase how well you know your customers by delivering a shopping experience that provides relevant, personalized results through Intelligent Recommendations and product search. Intelligent recommendations can help uniquely tailor experiences and increase conversion by helping customers find what they want. See how it comes to life.
  • Digital advertising. Target, attract, and convert more shoppers by delivering engaging, personalized experiences thereby increasing customer loyalty and return on digital marketing ad spend with Microsoft Advertising.

Stores and operations

Retail associates or frontline workers are critical to the success of any retailer. They are the face and humanity of every brand. That’s why we’re so focused on putting retail-specific tools into frontline employees’ hands so they can deliver best-in-class, multichannel experiences in an environment where safeguards and privacy standards are built-in. At the same time offering retailers the ability to create digital and smart stores to automate processes and use real-time data to improve operations.

  • Associate operations and collaboration. Empower your frontline employees to manage their tasks when they are in the store or remote while using robust communication, collaboration, and sharing capabilities, as well as use shared device management for business continuity. 
  • Digital and smart stores. Use real-time observational data to improve in-store operations, keeping check-out lines short and shoppers happy. Optimize your retail space by analyzing customer movement and product status to maximize sales.

Purchase

Be it online, in-store, or via social shopping, at the point of purchase we offer connected tools to drive conversion, with on-site advertising, social selling capabilities, and secure payment enablement.

  • Anywhere commerce conversion. Enable shoppers to purchase whenever, wherever, and on whatever device they choose supported with intelligent tools to deliver personalized, intuitive, and relevant shopping experiences. Maximize customer conversion and increase your average basket of goods with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce
  • Loss and fraud prevention. Protect your revenue from fraud using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand and detect patterns of fraudulent transactions across the shopper journey. Provide your employees tools to help decrease fraud costs, improve the customer experience, and streamline operational efficiency with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection.

Fulfillment and service

How do you get the physical product into the hands of the customer? Streamlining operations to make the delivery process as seamless as possible, with integrated customer support to help consumers at any point in the sales cycle.

  • Multichannel fulfillment. Delight customers with streamline curbside pickup and buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) operations with simplified payment processing and customer notifications. Increase employee effectiveness with optimized time management and infusing intelligence across your sales operations with AI capabilities that improve customer experience and drive better ROI. 
  • Integrated customer service. Streamline customer service while empowering your employees to foster lasting relationships with customers via insights and delivering consistent engagement across online and offline channels.

Post-purchase

The journey then continues with our insight’s capabilities enabling retailers to better understand customer demand signals and cross-channel behavior with intelligent post-purchase analytics.

  • Shopper analytics. Unlock data insights across every touchpoint of the shopper journey enabling better customer insights, better operations, and overall a better customer experience. Use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and Azure Synapse to bring together multichannel data in real-time to create a full view of your customer, so you can take relevant actions to increase customer loyalty.

Merchandising and distribution

These customer insights feed into and inform the supply chain process of demand planning, inventory management, pricing, and distribution. Our intelligent supply chain capabilities are designed to ensure channel operations are optimized so when consumers enter into the next sales cycle, they receive the right product through their preferred engagement channel.

  • Inventory management. Build a resilient supply chain by creating a centralized system that provides omnichannel inventory data in real-time. This translates into smarter fulfillment orchestration and helps you achieve optimal stock levels. Delight and satisfy customers by placing inventory and resources in the right place at the right time to fulfill orders in the shortest lead time, at the lowest cost.
  • Retail media. Generate new revenue streams from your website. Retailers are increasingly investing in retail media centers or vendor marketing to use retail media, vendor marketing for e-commerce, to generate high-margin revenue by running promoted products on your website in an unobtrusive way with full control over the shopper experience.