Microsoft Cloud for Retail is now generally available

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that it will take all of us working together to ensure that the future of retail meets the needs of today’s consumers. The retail world has always been shaped by new behaviors, and many are here to stay. The status quo will no longer meet these expectations. With the rise of mixed consumer buying behaviors, persistent supply chain constraints and a severe labor shortage, a new reality has emerged. A reality that requires retailers to accelerate their digital capabilities to give consumers what they want before they ask for it, align their supply chain anticipating that demand, and empower the industry’s superheroes – the front-line retail workers.

With the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Retail on February 1, I am optimistic that we will meet this challenge head-on with technology that will help retailers connect their customers, employees and data with a partner they can trust. .

What is Microsoft Cloud for Retail?

Microsoft Cloud for Retail is an industry-specific cloud that will help retailers navigate this new era of digital optimism. Customers have asked us for retail solutions purpose-built to enable their businesses to do things they’ve never been able to do before and with a level of speed and specificity beyond what they’re capable of. were waiting for in the past. Our long history of reach and scale in the retail industry has been transferred to the cloud. And we help accelerate business growth by delivering a comprehensive set of retail-specific features across the Microsoft Cloud portfolio.

It starts with unifying disparate data sources across the end-to-end shopping journey, enabling retailers to maximize the value of their data and resulting in a holistic view of the consumer. When connected, data and AI help retailers better understand and improve the consumer shopping experience. By delivering more relevant and streamlined experiences across the retail value chain, retailers can create a real-time, sustainable supply chain and empower their frontline staff.

With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, our increased insight into individual customer journeys will further strengthen our customer relationships and make GNC people’s primary destination for health and wellness.—Scott Saeger​, Chief Information Officer, GNC

Entry into the commercial space 2022

Looking ahead, I’d like to share four future opportunities retailers can be optimistic about in 2022, all of which will be made possible through Microsoft Cloud for Retail capabilities and our rich partner ecosystem.

1. Maximize the value of retail data

Realize the true value of retailer data by unifying disparate data sources across the buyer’s journey, uncovering insights that enable better experiences. There are 40 petabytes of data generated every hour in retail. It’s actually the demand signal for the world.¹ Yet customer touchpoints are not tied to one another: systems and data are siled and disconnected. to take advantage of a fraction of the available data.

With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, we use data models to bring together multiple systems and applications, unifying disparate data sources to build a unique, detailed profile of every shopper. Capabilities here include Unified Customer Profile, Purchase and Transaction Analytics, Intelligent Fraud Protection, and Retail Media.

“When you make data-driven decisions, you know you’re going to get the right products into the hands of customers when they need them. And we’ll have happy employees because they won’t have to manage unnecessary inventory in their stores. »​—Anne Cruz​, IT Manager for Supply Chain and Merchandising, Walgreens

2. Improve the shopping experience

Transform the shopping experience with data analytics and new store technologies to create more engaged shoppers with stronger lifetime value. In today’s highly competitive retail landscape, personalization has become the norm. While 95% of retail CEOs say they make personalization a strategic priority, only 23% of consumers think they are doing a good job.²

​With personalization at the heart of satisfying shopping experiences, Microsoft Cloud for Retail helps drive conversion by enabling personalized recommendations and search results. Capabilities here include real-time personalization, smart stores, unified commerce, digital advertising solutions, and seamless customer service.

“We wanted to better understand customer preferences and how they change over time. These are incredibly important things for a company of our size to understand.—Sashi Kommineni​, Director of Business Analytics, Chipotle Mexican Grill

3. Build a sustainable supply chain in real time

Build a resilient and sustainable supply chain by connecting data across the ecosystem to identify issues and optimize performance. Consumers today are frustrated with empty shelves. In many ways, 2021 has been the year of the supply chain – or the “pain of supply,” as it has come to be known. According to McKinsey, in fall 2021, more than 60% of consumers were experiencing out-of-stock items and only 13% of them were waiting for the item to come back in stock. Of those who experienced stockouts, 32% eventually changed retailers to make their purchase. This means that many retailers not only lose sales, but also face declining customer loyalty.³

Supply chain transformation starts with recognizing that a retailer’s data holds the key. Yet while retailers sit on a treasure trove of data from across their supply chain, many can’t use it to their full advantage. With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, we’re helping retailers better predict demand by using AI to optimize inventory and optimize order management to give customers choice between channels. Plus, we help retailers register, report and reduce things like carbon emissions as they strive to become more sustainable. Capabilities here include supply chain visibility, demand planning and optimization, and flexible execution.

We have had rave reviews from our customers on the great experience of using our curbside pickup at the store. They’re blown away by the communication and level of service they get through Teams, and the resulting trust means more purchases overall.​—Paul Medeiros​, Associate Dealer-Owner, Canadian Tire, Niagara Falls

4. Empower Store Associate

Equip store associates with solutions to enable real-time store communications, labor management, and store automation. Retail has always been and always will be a people business, with many employees on the front lines of retail. If ever there was any doubt about the importance of the retail frontline, then their herculean efforts over the past two years have dispelled those doubts. These superheroes have taken on much of the change we’ve seen and experienced, with minimal training and amazing grace. Survey results from Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index show that 60% of frontline workers are excited about the new opportunities that digital tools bring to retail, but 34% believe they still lack the right technology.⁴

Investing in the experience of frontline workers is investing in the customer experience. For example, industry-specific solutions like Microsoft Cloud for Retail can display inventory and supply chain data on mobile devices so an associate can quickly see the availability of an out-of-stock product. and organize its shipment to the customer. Retailers who have transformed frontline capabilities in this way have seen unprecedented returns in customer satisfaction. Capabilities here include real-time store communication and collaboration, retail workforce management, process automation, and career development.

“WWith Tasks in Teams, we can create a culture of relentless customer service and ensure the right behaviors are in place in pursuit of that goal. If we get the customer service element right, the business outcome will speak for itself. »​—Cahir Mullan​, License Partner and Optometrist, Widnes Boots Opticians

Partner for the next era of retail

Building digital capabilities is the new currency driving resilience and growth for every retailer. Not just for this pandemic, but for future events and years to come. This is why digital co-innovation is a priority for us. We want our customers to build their own digital capability and become independent with us, not dependent on us. But we also know that we cannot do it alone. That’s why we have an incredible ecosystem of industry partners who extend the value of Microsoft Cloud for Retail with additional solutions that address their most pressing challenges.

This partner ecosystem is a growing network of solutions that uses a common data model format to integrate seamlessly and natively with our entire Microsoft Cloud for Retail. And of course, these partners wouldn’t have our seal of approval without the same security, privacy and regulatory standards we rely on to maintain a foundation of trust. We are honored that so many partners trust Microsoft to be their platform partner.

Thank you for trusting us

Digital technology has a critical role to play in driving the retail industry forward, and I’m grateful for the trust our customers continue to place in Microsoft as their digital partner of choice. With Microsoft Cloud for Retail driving innovation in the industry, as well as an incredible ecosystem of Microsoft partners, I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for us all.

Finally, I invite you to join us for our Retail Digital Forum on January 19, 2022, where we will share inspiration from some of the customers and partners who work with us on all these future opportunities.

Remember you can stay informed about Microsoft Cloud for Retail, and you can also follow us on social networks. Welcome to Microsoft Cloud for Retail.


¹Get more value from your data in the cloud—Accenture.
² Personalizing the customer experience: McKinsey and Co.
³ American consumer sentiment and behaviors during the coronavirus crisis—McKinsey and Co.
⁴Labor Trends Index—Microsoft.

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