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Rewrite the business of retail with the power of the cloud

This is part one of a two-part series highlighting the Microsoft Cloud’s top benefits for retailers and brands. You can read part two here.

As retailers and consumer brands move forward to drive transformation within their organizations, technology innovation in the cloud holds the key to success.

Combined with the latest advancements in analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing’s current capabilities are powerful and far-reaching. It has the potential to rewrite the business of retail and transform every aspect of a retail or consumer goods organization—from the customer experiences they provide, to how their employees work, to their business processes and operations, to the very products and services they offer.

It’s truly an exciting time to be in the industry.

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Building the intelligent cloud platform is one way we are helping do that.

For my worldwide retail and consumer goods team that translates into making sure retailers and brands get the most value out of Microsoft technology—to accelerate digital transformation and unlock new opportunities at the intersection of business performance improvement, differentiated experiences and technology integration. It’s at the core of every interaction we have.

Today, more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 use Microsoft’s cloud services, and I am thrilled by the number of retailers and brands already using Azure to fuel business growth and reinvent themselves.

With more of our industry looking to what the cloud can offer, I wanted to highlight eight benefits of the Microsoft Cloud for retailers and brands.

1. Get IT flexibility with a truly consistent hybrid cloud

A consistent hybrid approach to the cloud is something retailers and consumer brands want but haven’t always been able to find with a cloud provider. We want to give our customers the choice and flexibility that works best for their business.

With Azure, retailers and brands can get the best of both worlds—the ability to deploy in the cloud or on-premises and extend on-premises data and apps—with hybrid consistency everywhere: in application development, management and security, identity management, and across the data platform. Azure’s flexibility in how you build your apps also helps accelerate innovation, rapidly building simple to complex projects using your choice of tools and open source technologies.

For retailers with large store or on-premises technology investments, a hybrid approach offers a compelling path to the cloud and a way to optimize their existing investments, keep costs down, and enable a truly connected enterprise—one that will open doors to delivering greater consistency and personalization in the shopping experience, and the speed and agility to meet customer demands.

2. Protect your business with the most trusted cloud

While data security and privacy is vital to any business, retailers and brands face enormous pressures and challenges with targeted cybercrime, complex supply chains, increasing compliance obligations, and constant staff turnover. That’s why the cloud provider and technology they choose is so important.

Microsoft is committed to the highest levels of trust, transparency, standards conformance, and regulatory compliance. Our broad suite of cloud products and services are all built from the ground up to address the most rigorous security and privacy demands of our customers. We offer 50 compliance offerings, more certifications than any other cloud service provider, and the Microsoft Cloud helps retailers and brands accelerate compliance, for example, with Europe’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law.

We also help manage and control identity and user access to your environments, data and applications.  Azure Active Directory federates user identities and enables multi-factor authentication for more secure sign-in for all your retail employees. Retailers and brands can also use Azure Active Directory B2C to serve their applications to customers with fully customizable experiences, while protecting their identities at the same time. Plus, the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program offers Azure customers comprehensive protection for their cloud-based innovations and investments against intellectual property lawsuits and risks.

3. Easily implement ready-to-use IoT

As we continue to see, retailers and consumer goods brands want practical uses for the Internet of Things (IoT.) The Microsoft Cloud offers plenty of effortless ways to drive better operational efficiencies and drive down costs. With our Azure IoT Suite, retailers and brands benefit from preconfigured solutions for the most common IoT scenarios such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance and can help increase margins per store by understanding things like in-store traffic patterns, shelf stock levels and energy usage, and tracking grocery refrigeration units to prevent food waste and spoilage.

Azure IoT Suite is also open and customizable by design, and 46 percent of Azure Certified for IoT devices run on Linux, Android, or other open source technologies. Here’s what MARS DRINKS has to say about their IoT deployment to improve operational efficiency for its partners in the field.

“The analytics platform based on Azure helps us to deliver a better service to our customers. We achieve this by using the information the platform provides to identify the optimum time to stock and service MARS DRINKS machines. We give this information to our operators as simple, actionable data that can be acted upon straightaway, helping them to add efficiency to their business and identify areas where improvements can be made.” — Jamie Head, Chief Information Officer at MARS DRINKS

4. Power decisions and apps with unmatched intelligence

Advanced analytics and AI are at the core of helping retailers and brands turn all their data into insights to drive real transformation across their business.

Azure is also the only public cloud that provides Cognitive APIs, Bots, Machine Learning, and Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) capabilities for developers and data scientists. They can build intelligent solutions at scale by pairing these capabilities with powerful GPU-based compute to accelerate deep learning, enable HPC simulations, and conduct real-time data analytics using Azure N-Series Virtual Machines.

With Cognitive Services and the Bot Framework, brands can create the kind of app interactions that feel natural and delight users. Using predictive analytics services such as Machine Learning, retailers can make smarter decisions, and uncover new possibilities from their structured and unstructured data—including ERP and CRM systems, web, IoT devices, and big data—and integrate apps with the tools their employees use every day such as Power BI and Microsoft Excel. Blockchain can dramatically enhance transparency in a product’s journey along the supply chain. And all the deep learning and real-time analytics have the potential to drive billions of dollars in savings in two of the industry’s biggest profit losses: food fraud and theft.

In my next blog, I’ll share more advantages of the Microsoft Cloud for retailers and brands and how to move to the cloud with confidence.

To learn more in the meantime, go here. You can also watch this video of our technologies in action delivering a seamless and connected customer journey. We look forward to helping retailers and consumer brands take advantage of all that the Microsoft Cloud can offer, and helping you rewrite the business of retail and reinvent the shopping experience.

LinkedIn: Tracy Issel