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Microsoft Cloud for Retail: Enabling retailers to transform consumer experience and operations through data

This is a transformative time in retail. In talking to industry leaders, clear trends emerge, including the growing importance of unlocking consumer insights balanced with privacy, the need for tighter omnichannel experience, the challenge of mitigating supply chain disruptions, and not compromising on sustainability. Ultimately, much of this results in increased consumer and associate expectations across digital and physical experiences.

Our industry cloud brings together the breadth of offerings across the Microsoft portfolio to unlock capabilities for these trends and more—utilizing the power of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Cloud for Retail was built with the future in mind—addressing key trends, harnessing data, employing industry-tailored capabilities, made complete with integrated support offerings. On January 12, we disclosed our plans to launch Microsoft Cloud for Retail, and today I am excited to announce the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Retail.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail accelerates business growth by providing trusted retail industry solutions that integrate with retailers’ existing systems. It builds on our strong history in retail, brings in new intelligent capabilities, and provides a unified offering for the industry. Additionally, we are empowering our vast partner ecosystem to provide third-party partner solutions on top of the cloud. Security and compliance are at the center, supporting retailers as they transform omnichannel experiences and improve operations across the entire customer journey and lifecycle—seamlessly connecting your data, customers, people, and operations. Let’s walk through some of the product capabilities.

The four pillars of Microsoft Cloud for Retail
Figure 1: The four pillars of Microsoft Cloud for Retail

Empowering retailers with data to unlock holistic customer insights

Microsoft Cloud for Retail provides a holistic view of the consumer to help retailers better understand and elevate consumer experiences—complete with an end-to-end view of a shopper’s journey in a clear and intuitive way. It also introduces intelligence as part of this Unified Customer Profile, using a predictive AI retail churn model built on real-world data and designed specifically for omnichannel retail.

Figure 2: Retail Channel Churn

Utilizing Customer Insights capabilities, you can unify data across disparate sources, creating a 360-view of your customer. Retailers can utilize the information to provide personalized experiences, reveal important opportunities, and improve customer satisfaction. Below is one such example of an integrated customer view.

graphical user interface, application
Figure 3: Retailer Unified Customer Profile, Customer Insights view

“With Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, we now have access to an interface with all the custom attributes we need, and with the click of a button, we can create audiences based on the desired criteria and then onboard that audience to our activation partners.”—Sashi Kommineni, Director of Enterprise Analytics, Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail also enables retailers to unlock omnichannel insights with advanced shopper and operations analytics, while enabling intelligent fraud prevention harnessing Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection.

Personalizing and streamlining the shopper experience across channels

Retailers are also striving to transform the shopping experience across mediums. Unifying data across data sources enables retailers to personalize consumer interactions. Layering on that, our unified commerce capabilities allow retailers to personalize and provide consistent customer journeys across channels. Finally, our offering includes capabilities for retailers all the way from digital advertising through fulfillment. Most consumers are likely to shop with brands that they recognize, remember, and that provide relevant offers and recommendations. With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, you can better cater to customer needs by enabling personalized recommendations and search results.

Figure 4: Customer recommendations through targeted advertising

Equally key to ensuring a great experience is world-class customer service. Fully integrated in the offering are omnichannel support and servicing capabilities combining chat transcripts, call logs, knowledge articles, and more, in an all in one view and for individual customers.

Figure 5: Customer service workspace

Empowering associate productivity

As part of this release, familiar tools within Microsoft Teams such as Shifts and Tasks empower store associates and increase customer satisfaction. An example of this in action is how associates at both REI and Boots Opticians, a subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance, are using capabilities included in Microsoft Cloud for Retail to manage their workloads, receive notifications, see their schedules, and make time off requests in a singular experience that also allows associates to connect directly with colleagues.

“The app I use the most within Teams is Shifts. It’s so convenient to be able to see my full schedule and request time off in the same place where I chat with colleagues.”—Taylor Hewitt, Contact Center Specialist and Virtual Outfitter, REI.

“One of the key benefits of Tasks in Teams is the ability to receive a notification on any device, including my smartwatch. The instant notifications save me a lot of time and allow me to make quick decisions.”—Daniel Prescott, Store Manager, Boots Opticians.

Frontline user experience, walkie talkie and tasks mobile views
Frontline user experience, walkie talkie and tasks mobile views
Figure 6: Frontline user experience, walkie talkie and tasks mobile views

Building real-time, sustainable supply chains

Supply chain challenges have grown over the last two years, making the ability to have real-time visibility into the supply chain and inventory invaluable. Microsoft Cloud for Retail helps create an agile, resilient, and sustainable supply chain by connecting data across your ecosystem to identify and predict issues and optimize performance.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail also allows for optimizing order management, giving customers choice across channels with flexible fulfillment, and predicting demand using AI to optimize inventory with demand planning and optimization. With Supply Chain Insights, retailers can create a digital twin of their supply chain and invite suppliers to share data to create a complete view of the retail value chain.

Figure 7: Microsoft for Cloud Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights
Figure 7: Microsoft for Cloud Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights

GN Group—makers of brands like Jabra, ReSound, and BlueParrot—gained a structured way to evaluate its supply chain needs and pricing. Employees, in real-time, can see if the company has the components on hand to build the number of headsets needed and generate more accurate timing estimates and pricing. This allows them to respond quickly to customer demands and plan for large orders. With access to centralized and reliable data, GN Group can make smart decisions that lead to the company’s continued growth.

“Data is extremely important for our day-to-day operations and for making decisions about long-term priorities that affect our supply chain. We can pull together a much better overview more up-to-date, more real-time. It makes decisions much easier. Having one source of data takes away all the noise around the discussion. It becomes more concrete, so you focus on the right things.”—Andreas Nordang, Head of Global Supply Chain, GN Hearing (GN Group).

Easing deployment through a unified experience

Microsoft Solution Center simplifies the deployment of Microsoft Cloud for Retail, allowing for deployment of products and components across the offering in one unified experience. It also includes functionality to surface needed configurations and easily ensure pre-requisites are met—helping retailers improve their time to value by getting capabilities up and running faster while providing an integrated support experience.

Figure 8: Microsoft Cloud for Retail in Solution Center
Figure 8: Microsoft Cloud for Retail in Solution Center

Enabling increased value and tailoring through partners

Microsoft’s growing ecosystem of trusted Retail partners enrich our cloud offering. They add and extend capabilities—adding additional customer value. This cooperation between Microsoft and our partner ecosystem empowers our customers to cater to their unique needs.

We have announced a partnership with FedEx, including integration that combines data insights from FedEx with Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management—enabling support for customer delivery preferences, more accurate delivery lead-times, and more choice to return products.

Sitecore, a Microsoft Cloud for Retail partner, implemented Sitecore Analytics to optimize Customer Insights to help retailers prioritize the customer needs specific to their business looking across menu access, locations, and storytelling content.

Another partner, SAS, deployed a Customer 360 solution to provide better recommendations through ecommerce and digital campaigns. Their Supply Chain Predict and Demand Solutions evolve their clients’ supply chain based on demand—enabling new products to be manufactured, sold, and fulfilled to customers. Partners like Blue Yonder have delivered cross-functional retail transformation offerings, while others like Accenture and Avanade have built Sustainability Solutions for clients.

To improve discoverability of industry-specific partner solutions for Microsoft Cloud for Retail, we have also invested in creating the AppSource Industry Gallery. Through this experience, visitors can see featured partner solutions and a library of retail-oriented partners with offerings designed for the Microsoft Cloud—enabling ease in partner discoverability for retailers and a channel for partners to reach customers resulting in win-win opportunities.

Microsoft App Source for Retail
Figure 9: Microsoft App Source for Retail

Ready for 2022 and beyond

Our interactions with customers inspire us to keep enhancing our retail industry capabilities. Our work to innovate and help transform retail will only continue to grow—including helping retailers engage customers, improve processes, and connect employees. I am proud of what Microsoft Cloud for Retail, and our ecosystem of partners have to offer you. I encourage you to listen to the Retail Digital Forum on-demand, where you will hear from industry leaders and discover how to accelerate growth with Microsoft Cloud for Retail.

Stay informed about Microsoft Cloud for Retail, follow us on social, and learn more about the offering at our Microsoft Cloud for Retail website.