Technology innovations in the retail sphere have ignited some truly inspiring partner stories. In honor of this week’s National Retail Federation conference, I want to highlight some digital transformation stories our partners are driving within the retail industry and how their solutions are helping to revolutionize the customer journey.
Understanding the Changing Retail Vertical
The business opportunity in retail is tremendous. IDC’s Worldwide Vertical Markets IT Spending 2014-2019 Forecast estimated global IT spending in retail to be $86 billion in 2016. As an industry, retail is experiencing some very exciting changes when it comes to how they are leveraging technology to create personalized experiences for customers regardless of where they are shopping – in store or online. In response to how technology is influencing buying decisions for many customers, such as through online shopping, showrooming, and social media, retailers are turning to new technologies to bridge the gap between digital and physical retail environments and delivering positive and engaging customer experiences.
While retailers are focused on creating a unique and personalized shopping experience for customers, it’s critical that they also learn how to empower employees, harness Big Data and leverage emerging technologies in a meaningful way. From immersive digital shopping experiences to mobile payment platforms, the store of the future is almost unrecognizable when compared to the traditional retail format.
Revolutionizing the Customer Experience
We spoke with some innovative partners in the retail sphere to get an idea of how digital transformation is revolutionizing their industry. As we have seen with the tech industry and communication vertical in recent years, new technologies will soon completely change the way we buy and sell products to consumers. Here are a few examples of Microsoft partners who are doing just that.
ELSE Corp & E.L.S.E.
E.L.S.E. stands for Exclusive Luxury Shopping Experience. Simplified, E.L.S.E is a cloud SaaS platform for customized, virtual retail shopping. The Italian-based startup was inspired by the idea of bridging front-end retail processes with cloud-managed back-end process (such as virtual fitting, smart manufacturing, order creation, etc.) to create an overall better shopping experience for customers.
“Technology driven innovation and shifts in consumer behavior are pushing brands to create retail experiences that are more appealing, less time consuming, and more personalized. Personalization is really the driving influence and virtual retail or ‘no stock retail,’ as I like to call it, gives consumers an unprecedented level of control in every step of the creative process.”
– Andrey Golub, CEO and Co-Founder of ELSE Corp
Built on Azure as a “Universal 3D product configurator,” ELSE Corp has created what Golub considers to be the next generation of retail fashion experiences. The technology can be integrated into any brand environment and will be available to high-end retailers within the next calendar year. E.L.S.E. also uses Virtual Machines and .NET to improve customization and to personalize the virtual shopping experience. Where online shopping is focused on selling only those products that already exist, on demand technology like E.L.S.E. will help create and visualize the perfect product.
With this approach, E.L.S.E lets consumers actively take part in the production process. They can cultivate the style of their product, the materials, the colors, the accessories, the fit, even the placement of pockets. And throughout this process, they are guided by an AI shopping assistant who can ensure they get the results they are looking for.
Microsoft partner Orckestra has built an in-store interactive display that enables customers to purchase merchandise in the exact color and size they are looking for, and have the product shipped to any location they prefer. Their solution is a response to the blending of online and in-store (or “omnichannel”) experiences despite shrinking stores and reduced inventory availability. Their mission is to provide the convenience that enables brands to adapt and innovate in the new digital economy while meeting the growing expectations of their customers.
“In essence, we connect the physical to the digital. We help retailers adapt, perform, and innovate in the digital economy by bringing retail experiences, data, and operations together in one solution, to deliver omnichannel commerce without re-platforming. We lead them forward in the era of digital transformation.”
– Gary Guy, CMO and Managing Director of Orckestra
Orckestra’s cloud-based commerce solution is run on Microsoft Azure and leverages Azure Cognitive Services to enable better digital shopping experiences in store for a more personalized and connected customer journey. By unifying digital and physical touchpoints in retail, the platform has enabled retailers to personally connect with customers while providing them with the exact products they are seeking. This allows for a more personalized mobile shopping experience, better product recommendations, more targeted promotions, and stronger opportunities for employees to build loyal customer relationships.
Genetec has helped transform the retail industry with their in-store security solutions. They provide cloud-based video surveillance footage and real-time analytics, producing actionable intelligence about store operations, buying patterns, and consumer trends. Marketing, operational, and merchandising staff can analyze and correlate data from customer security systems and point-of-sale systems to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ behaviors, needs, and preferences. For example, the application will inform store management when checkout lanes or changing room lines become overly long so they can reassign staff as necessary.
“Consumers that choose to shop in brick-and-mortar stores are not only looking for merchandise, they’re looking for an experience. Genetec Retail Intelligence allows retailers to enhance the customer experience and react in real-time.”
– Derek Arcuri, Product Marketing Manager at Genetec
Powered by Microsoft Azure, Genetec’s Retail Intelligence service provides powerful insight into the customer experience through a single pane of glass. It allows customers to work with an array of edge devices and third-party systems while providing a uniquely flexible and reliable service that allows the solution to grow with the changing needs of their customers.
We look forward to seeing what other exciting new technologies and customer experiences the NRF convention highlights in the coming week. It’s plain to see that the store of the future is quickly becoming a reality. Stop by our booth (#2803) this week to see many other examples of innovative partner solutions.
To learn more about how you can differentiate your cloud business as these partners have done, download the Differentiate to Stand Out eBook and get started today.
How do you see technology changing the retail experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.