A women uses a surface tablet to help a female customer in a small SMB boutique retail shop.

Digital disruption is taking over the retail industry, and it’s time to sink or swim. With the largest mall available in their pockets, customers have become more informed when it comes to when and where to shop. This newfound power requires the industry to innovate and provide improved services. Intelligent retail offers a new approach to data, customer service, employee empowerment, and personalization.

Intelligent retail turns data into dollars

Today’s customers prioritize exceptional customer experience. Customers that receive better service will spend more; therefore, successful retailers need to deliver expert service and personalization to maintain customer loyalty. Retailers are expected to provide an easy cross-channel customer journey with personalized recommendations and a tailored experience. Retailers that can best leverage their customers’ data – securely – will be best positioned to quickly adapt and anticipate customers’ needs.

Kroger, America’s largest grocery retailer, partnered with Microsoft to redefine customer experience. Using Azure, Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide its customers with personalized food inspiration. And with great data-driven customer experience comes greater employee insights and empowerment. Solutions like Azure-powered analytics help retail associates provide a better customer experience by quickly identifying and addressing out-of-stocks to ensure customers can locate products on their shopping list.

Cloud for experience at scale

About 10% of all purchases in Canada will be made online by 2020. Customers in Canada and globally expect that they can quickly and seamlessly make a purchase on a retailer website, no matter the time of day or season of the year.

Gap Inc. is partnering with Microsoft to create a more seamless shopping experience to address this need for scale and availability. The elasticity of Azure will help Gap Inc. quickly scale for future holiday seasons, as the company migrates hundreds of applications to Azure over the next several years, starting with critical inventory, store and site management systems.

Artificial Intelligence for personalization

Today’s retail industry needs to put the customer at the center of everything. Merging the powers of physical stores and technology opens endless opportunities for retailers to reimagine and transform the industry while building new, thoughtful, and valuable connections to their customers. Retailers have the opportunity to use technology in a way that builds trust into their brand. With the help of Microsoft, Starbucks saw an opportunity to make their mobile app more customer-focused and more responsive. Using reinforcement learning technology built and hosted on Azure, Starbucks is providing more personalized and relevant recommendations within the app for food and drinks. 16 million active users now get thoughtful product recommendations based on their location, previous orders, dietary preferences, and even weather and time of day.

Intelligent retail is key to staying on top. Download the Retail Trends 2020 Playbook to uncover trends and customer needs in the retail landscape, expert insights, and examples of strategies for intelligent retail.