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Maximize first-party data with Microsoft Cloud for Retail

While most everyone politely accepted the role the industry webinar played these past 24 months, last month Shoptalk gathered nearly 10,000 retail luminaries live and in-person in Las Vegas. The event was held from March 27 to March 30, 2022, at Mandalay Bay for the industry’s biggest reunion yet. Shoptalk 2022, my first in-person event in over two years (but my fourth Shoptalk all up), was a great experience and attendees heard from some of the heaviest hitters in retail including top executives from Target, Sam’s Club, ULTA Beauty, REI, The Kroger Co, J. Crew, and more.

There was one main theme that stood at the forefront for me, across the event’s main stage and in breakout sessions, and that’s the ever-increasing importance of retailers’ need to maximize the value of their first-party data. When done right, I see this differentiator present itself as a benefit to brands, retailers, and consumers—specifically in the form of:

  • Growing the yet-to-mature space of retail media networks.
  • Elevating consumers’ blended shopping experiences by helping consumers shop where, when, and how they choose—whether that’s on the mobile device, at the store, from the curb, at home, on social platforms, and in the metaverse.

The value first-party data brings to the retail environment

Several speakers across Shoptalk noted that many consumers are willing to share valuable information and even respond to direct questions, as long as they feel it will be used strategically and for their advantage. The unique role of first-party data within the retail environment enables brands to give consumers the blended shopping experiences they want (for example, content and context), resulting in retailers providing more value to brands, and ultimately driving more brand love and transactions. With everyone’s incentives aligned, retail media is quickly becoming the growth engine for all.

In February 2022, Microsoft Cloud for Retail was launched. A robust set of AI-driven retail solutions, Microsoft Cloud for Retail allows businesses to do things they’ve never been able to do before and with a level of speed and specificity beyond what they’ve expected in the past. Our long history of scope and scale in the retail industry has been brought to the cloud to accelerate business growth by providing a complete set of retail-specific capabilities across the Microsoft Cloud portfolio. Maximizing the value of your data underpins all of this. More than ever, leveraging all your data is critical to running a successful retail media business, while also elevating your customers’ blended shopping experience.

There are 40 petabytes of data generated every hour in retail.1 That’s an immense amount of data that, if leveraged properly, has the potential to completely transform your business. The increasing challenge is how much more data is being collected through many more customer touchpoints—from traditional sources like point-of-sale (POS) systems, inventory logs, and transaction files, to more modern sources like in-store sensors, digital shelf displays, employee task management records, visual search activity using computer vision and machine learning signals, and social media engagement data. In a single day, it is becoming more and more possible that the same consumer will interact with your brand in person at the store, in the car on their mobile device, and with a virtual headset in the metaverse.

The data coming from those consumer touchpoints are being stored on separate and oftentimes legacy systems that often don’t speak the same language. Some of that data is in operational stores (for example, web click data, foot traffic, or coming from an assembly line) or it’s coming from your apps like customer relationship management (CRM), customer service solutions, tracking systems, and more. This data is siloed and disconnected, and most retailers are only set up to leverage a fraction of it.

With Microsoft Cloud for Retail, we’re unifying disparate data sources to establish a singular, in-depth profile of each shopper, regardless of shopping and buying channels. We’re using data models to bring multiple systems and applications together by providing a shared language for your applications. This simplifies data management and app development by unifying data into common formats and applying consistency across multiple apps and deployments. Connecting this data becomes key to really understanding your customers and staying ahead in an increasingly competitive retail landscape.

There are 15 Microsoft Cloud for Retail capabilities, all strengthened by the foundational efforts of maximizing the value of your data across the entire shopper journey. Retail media is one of these capabilities, helping you use your first-party data to unlock high-margin ad revenue.

Leveraging the retail media capability, you can automate vendor marketing campaigns that include promoted product delivery, shopper targeting, campaign reporting, and native ad placement that blends with organic site content. Learn more about what you and your brands can do with retail media from Microsoft Cloud for Retail.

“There can be a tension between advertising and the customer experience. I found that retailers and brands and the way they are thinking about this is very smart. They understand the tension and they’re learning to use it to everyone’s advantage.”—Andrew Lipsman, Principal Analyst Retail and E-commerce, Insider Intelligence.

Learning from The Home Depot, Kroger, and SES-Imagotag

There are some inspiring examples of retailers and brands that are using first-party data to power some of the most successful retail media programs, ones that also deliver elevated blended consumer shopping experiences. In an industry that innovates so quickly, it’s important to create places where we learn from each other. I’m excited to share that at our next retail digital forum, Unlock new learnings and innovation with retail media network, you’ll be hearing from some of the industry’s brightest retail media executives. Guests include Michael Schuh, Vice President, Media Strategy, Kroger Precision Marketing, Melanie Babcock, Vice President, Integrated Media and Retail Media, The Home Depot, Scott Soong, Senior Executive Vice President, SES-Imagatog, and myself as moderator. Hear their perspective on what makes a successful retail media network. In this session you will also learn how to:

  • Unlock new digital signals in today’s blended shopping reality.
  • Elevate consumer experiences, as a result.
  • Measure results that map back to brand and retailer business outcomes.

Learn more

Join us on April 27, 2022, for the next retail digital forum, Unlock new learnings and innovation with retail media network.

Sign-up here, and you’ll also be given the option to watch the event on-demand, at your leisure. Stay informed about Microsoft Cloud for Retail, follow us on social, and learn more about the offering at our Microsoft Cloud for Retail website.

1How to get more value out of your data in the cloud, Accenture