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Every single day for me is a partner day. While most Microsoft employees wake up eager to serve our customers, myself and Microsoft partner managers aim to drive success with partners that lead to their growth and of course, our customers’ growth.

An amazing partner story will be headlined inside of Shelley Bransten’s Big Ideas session at NRF Retail Converge. Just think, every retailer seeks to minimize customer returns. Returns represent a hassle for the customer and a logistics nightmare for the retailer. While there are numerous solutions that help retailers improve the returns process, Newmine aims to eliminate returns altogether which is far more sustainable in that it eliminates the overproduction of merchandise that might otherwise end up in landfill. Newmine believes that the best return is the one that never happens. I would totally agree with that sentiment being an avid online shopper myself.

You may recall we announced the private preview of Microsoft Cloud for Retail at the January NRF. I remember reaching out to over 100 partners in our retail ecosystem right before that announcement to give them the heads up on our strategy and invite them to join us on our industry cloud journey. In the past six months since that announcement, we have engaged with more than 150 partners from ISVs, to Systems Integrators, to Advisory firms, and revealed the path to inclusion within Microsoft Cloud for Retail.

What we have discovered is nothing short of phenomenal. Foundational partners like Blue Yonder, Kantar, Adobe, Sitecore, dunnhumby, AWM, SES-Imagotag, and LS Retail have all joined our industry cloud party not just to integrate their current offering but to expand their services right across the consumer shopper journey in our Microsoft Cloud for Retail. We have also seen innovators like Newmine and Sparo who work to make retail personal—whether it means shopping is hassle-free or better yet, shopping that drives philanthropy.

Retailers around the globe work closely with their Systems Integrators, in fact, many view their SI as an extension of their own company. For this reason, it is imperative that we bring SIs on the journey with us to help retailers implement Microsoft Cloud for Retail. Accenture/Avanade, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, and Capgemini are only a handful of the multiple SIs working closely with us to seamlessly implement Microsoft Cloud for Retail with their customers.

Traditionally, solutions and products were the domain of the ISV, but now more Systems Integrators are building ISV-like solutions which are pertinent to our Microsoft Cloud for Retail. Accenture’s ai.RETAIL solution, and TCS’ Optumera platform augment Microsoft Azure offering and deliver tangible market differentiation for retailers.

I get asked one question at least daily: Why would Microsoft create a cloud offering specifically for an industry? The answer is simple. We aim to solve and serve the customer’s challenges and opportunities at the frontend with the technology components barely visible at the backend. After all, retailers need agility and a faster time to market—purchasing discrete solutions from multiple companies is not helpful. With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, the solutions are focused on driving outcomes for customers that deliver compound interest as they expand their investment with both Microsoft and our partners.

What’s next?

Here are the four things I encourage you to do as we continue the journey to Microsoft Cloud for Retail together: