AI in retail: making the most of NRF 2024 - Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program
Dec 19,2023

AI in retail: making the most of NRF 2024

Two women review data on laptops in a clothing retail store

Our guest contributor for today’s blog is Noel Pennington, Director of Partner Strategy, Industry Cloud. 

National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show is where the retail and consumer goods industries come together to hear from the biggest changemakers, experience the latest innovations, and make the relationships that matter most. Microsoft will again play a prominent role in this year’s event with new announcements and a showcase of industry innovation.  

Our “RetAIl” lineup this year will center on four key pillars: maximizing the value of your data, elevating the shopper experience, building a real-time retail supply chain, and empowering frontline store associates.   

Event highlights  

Kicking things off, our Partner Pre-day is planned for 1-5 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 13, at the Westin New York in Times Square. It will feature keynotes from Microsoft executives, a recap of retail priorities in 2024 including AI, Copilot, Microsoft Fabric for Retail and Global Distribution Systems Industry Insights, and strategies for going to market with Microsoft.  

For those interested in attending, please reach out to your partner development manager or email: nrfpartner@microsoft.com.  

Be sure to also join us for the RetailROI Super Saturday, a.k.a. “Tech and Tears,” also on January 13. Get great retail technology content before the show, join the best networking in NYC that weekend, and help children. Don’t miss “Practical AI – Real Life Case Studies of AI/ML and Generative AI Impact for Retail” featuring Jose Luis Ortiz, Head of Sales Retail and CPG at Microsoft, Michael Martin, EVP of Elior North America, and Jose Deepak, Global Head of One Demand Data & Analytics Solutions for MARS. Full event agenda available here.  

Finally, come and celebrate with us at the RETHINK Retail Gala, 8-11 p.m. EST, Monday, January 15. This exclusive event for retailers and top industry experts brings together brand and design visionaries to step into a world where fashion and AI collide, blurring the lines between reality and dreams.   

Spotlight: Microsoft for Startups  

This year, the Microsoft for Startups team will be running a daily series of roundtables called CafAI at the Avanade Lounge, as well as hosting a Startup Showcase at the Partner Pre-day. The CafeAI Series will explore three key topics: Customer Engagement, Data & AI, and Robotics & Automation. Each roundtable will include a panel of experts from Microsoft for Startups’ Pegasus portfolio. Attendees will have the opportunity to join the conversation through Q&A and network with Avanade, Microsoft, startups, and retailers after each session.    

We are also excited to spotlight the new retail startups from the Microsoft for Startups Pegasus portfolio. They come from a wide range of countries and regions, including the US, Estonia, Portugal, UAE, Israel, India, Singapore, and Czech Republic, showcasing the global diversity of the startup ecosystem & Microsoft for Startups.  

  • Haut.ai provides innovative solutions for the skincare industry. It provides skincare brands with a B2B SaaS (software as a service) tool, available as an API and SDK, for AI skin analysis for their customers.   
  • Getbee provides live video software for conversational sales. Getbee helps transform the shopping experience by enabling brands to offer personalized interactions, instant demos, live shopping, and virtual appointments with their online customers.  
  • Fashable.AI leverages generative AI to create authentic and original images of fashion models and garments. In doing so, they are fundamentally transforming the digital content creation landscape and addressing challenges in the fashion industry.   
  • Crave Retail provides a platform for connected fitting rooms, with a vision of empowering retailers to connect with their shoppers. Their platform offers a digital fitting room experience that enables shoppers to personalize their customer engagements, request on-demand products, and access omnichannel capabilities, while receiving instant product recommendations.   
  • zblocks provides a cutting-edge platform for enterprises to build Web3 applications. Some of the features that set zblocks apart include low-code/no-code authoring, multichain portability, seamless login access, out-of-box connectors, and payment without crypto.   
  • 1MRobotics is a startup that develops next-generation robotic dark stores, or as they classify them: robotic nano-fulfillment centers. They aim to transform last-mile fulfillment infrastructure through robotics and automation.   
  • Unbox Robotics specializes in vertical parcel sortation and consolidation via robots powered by Swarm Intelligence. Its solutions improve personnel productivity by three times and increase space utilization of warehousing area by two times.  
  • Indoor Robotics provides a suite of services that can significantly benefit retailers. Their autonomous indoor drone fleet offers 24/7 surveillance for real-time data collection and analytics, which can be used to optimize store layouts, track inventory, and enhance customer experiences.  
  • Mapped offers a data infrastructure platform that simplifies the extraction of data from physical assets across various industries, including retail and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG).   
  • Omnistream offers data-empowered retail solutions. The platform captures store-level data and leverages machine learning to provide predictive modeling and recommendations, enabling companies to make informed decisions and capture growth opportunities.   
  • Insite.AI offers data-empowered solutions for Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) companies. Their platform enables comprehensive scenario planning, allowing CPG companies to understand the precise impact of their decisions and run rapid simulations to visually understand the changes on profitability, sales, and basket sizes.   
  • Commerce.AI is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of Ecommerce and Marketing teams. Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, it can understand and analyze unstructured data, such as text, voice, images, and video.   
  • Ydistri offers an Intelligent Rebalancing Platform designed to help retailers increase margins, revenues, and inventory turnover by eliminating dead stock, overstock, and out-of-stock.   

In addition to the Pegasus partners above, we will also have new partners that have graduated from our program. These include:  

  • Prisma leverages artificial intelligence and strategic business practices to streamline retail operations.   
  • Vici Robotics is a commercial Robot as a Service (RaaS) company that focuses on enhancing productivity for retailers through innovative automation technology.   
  • Footprints AI helps retailers leverage the power of AI to transform their sales and marketing performance.   

Read the Microsoft for Startups Blog and check out Microsoft for Startups for more information.   

Session highlights   

  • Retail Unlocked: Achieve more with Microsoft: Hosted by Shelley Bransten, Corporate Vice President, Global Retail, Consumer Goods and Gaming Industries on Sunday, January 14, 2024, from 1:00 to 1:30 PM EST. Join this interactive session to hear about one retailer’s AI journey to date. You’ll also learn about new AI-focused findings from Futurum Research and all new AI capabilities in Microsoft Cloud for Retail that will help power your AI transformation. 
  • Bring joy to the shopping experience and unlock customer-centricity with AI: Hosted by Kathleen Mitford, Corporate Vice President, Global Industry Marketing on Monday, January 15, 2024, from 11:45 to 12:15 PM EST. Generative AI and large language models have captured the attention of executives across industries. While the technology’s use cases seem endless, smart retailers and brands must identify and prioritize the applications of generative AI that will be most valuable to their organization and partner with organizations who will treat their data with the highest privacy standards. Join us to hear how Microsoft is helping organizations large and small maximize their generative AI opportunities safely and responsibly. 
  • Unify your data to unlock AI opportunities: Hosted by Satish Thomas, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Industry Clouds on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, from 1:00 to 1:45 PM EST. Retailers are swimming in data every day. Even with sophisticated legacy technologies and cutting-edge data science, the majority of that data goes uncollected. Insights stay hidden—often in plain sight. But that is starting to change. AI tools are enabling retailers to understand their customers, merchandising, supply chains, operations, and workforces better than ever before. Join us to hear about the myriad insights that retailers are drawing from newfound and increasingly precise data sources to run leaner, smarter stores.  

Check out the full agenda here.  

Expo highlights  

Be sure to visit us at this year’s Microsoft booth #4503 to connect with industry experts and see the latest innovation from Microsoft and partners.   

Conveniently located at the main entrance of the Exhibition Hall, immerse yourself in 29 innovative demos and experiences, and meet and collaborate with Microsoft experts and our industry-leading partners on how you can leverage cutting-edge AI retail solutions.  

Next steps  

We look forward to connecting with you in 2024 at the retail industry event of the year!