The Record - Issue 15: Winter 2019

96 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E her because it’s unlikely that my comment will ever get back to the store owner and inspire them to change the way the business is run,” says Rajagopalan. “However, if she could capture my answer digitally, the shop owner could analyse it alongside feedback from other shoppers to iden- tify if people are making similar complaints or requests. For example, they could consider add- ing a new baby product to their inventory if it’s regularly requested by parents who shop at the store. Acting on feedback like this is an easy way for my grocery store to show that it truly under- stands the needs of its customers, which will ultimately boost shopper loyalty and drive sales.” Microsoft and its partners are playing a pivotal role in empowering retailers to rethink their operations. “In the past, Microsoft recommended that retailers implement holistic solutions, but with the prevalence of cloud services we’ve realised that this isn’t the most expedient way of helping them to truly reinvent retail,” says Miles. “Now we take a ‘recipe’ approach – just as you can vary the ingredients to make different types of cakes, retailers can mix together specialised applica- tion programming interface-based services and solutions to ensure they have all the capabilities they need to reimagine the way they operate. For instance, retailer could implement Dynamics to manage checkout processes and use Microsoft partner Adobe’s solutions to better understand their customers and improve their targeted mar- keting strategies. We’re also encouraging cus- tomers to apply these solutions across all their physical and digital channels.” According to Rajagopalan, Microsoft’s vast partner network does a “stellar job” of creating applications and solutions that are designed for specific retail use-cases, such as high fashion or grocery. “All these solutions are supported by Microsoft’s platform, which provides all the foundational cloud, data management, security and other capabilities retailers need to solve their existing operational challenges and take advan- tage of new opportunities,” she says. Multiple partners have already used the Microsoft platform to develop innovative solu- tions that retailers are using to reimagine specific aspects of the shopping experience. “MishiPay’s smartphone-based Scan & Go self-checkout solution is helping retailers to bring the speed and convenience of online payments to their physical stores,” says Rajagopalan. “Meanwhile, Microsoft cloud-based beacon technology from Footmarks is helping them to capture data about customers’ in-store behaviour so they can deliver timely per- sonalised product recommendations and offers via a mobile app. And then there are innovations like Syte’s In-Store Smart Mirror, which uses aug- mented reality and AI to help retailers bring data and fresh experiences into their stores. Miles believes that these types of solutions will help retailers to become a lot more flexible and agile – both for retailers and their customers. “We’ve been talking about omnichannel retail for several years, but now that retailers are starting to transform the fundamental aspects of their business, it will finally come to frui- tion,” he predicts. “AI, machine learning and other technologies will enable retailers to better understand their customers and accurately fore- cast product demand so they can move to a just- in-time model for inventory management and reduce stock keeping units. At the same time, their reimagined supply chains will increase product availability by allowing them to fulfil orders in new ways and accommodate the pay- ment and delivery/collection options that work best for both their business and their customers.” According to Rajagopalan, the successful retailers of the future will be the ones that put customers in the driving seat and redesign every aspect of their business to align with changing consumer preferences and behaviours. “By repurposing their physical stores, bridging the gaps between their physical and digital chan- nels, harnessing insights from their data, truly optimising their supply and delivery chains, and empowering their employees to become brand ambassadors, retailers will be able to deliver personalised shopping services that are mean- ingful and enjoyable for their customers,” she says. “It will be a huge challenge, but there are lots of opportunities for retailers to innovate, so Microsoft is very optimistic about the future of reimagined retail.” “Customers need truly meaningful reasons to continue shopping at physical stores” SHANTH I RA J AGOPA L AN