In New York City, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Big Show kicks off this week. Retailers across the US are looking to focus on their customers now more than ever, by providing a unique and personalized shopping experience. Microsoft will be there at every step of the way, showcasing new technologies and innovations to improve the customer experience.
Microsoft Azure, Power BI and Dynamics 365 are some of the Microsoft services available to help national retailers engage their customers. With the help of their global partners, Microsoft's booth at the NRF Big Show will include store-scanning robots, Microsoft mobile apps, intelligent vending machines, and more.
Here are examples of how Microsoft and its partners have helped US retailers nationwide.
• Nordstrom Rack: In its pursuit of continually improving the customer experience, Nordstrom Rack is piloting in-store beacon technology from Footmarks, built on the Microsoft Cloud, to better engage and personalize shoppers’ experiences and ultimately increase speed and convenience. Today, Nordstrom Rack is using the beacons to gather data that it hopes will ultimately help to better engage and serve customers. It is also testing some messaging displays via the beacons to direct shoppers to available fitting rooms or express checkout services, and to show customers extended product offerings that are available online while they’re shopping in-store.
• SKIP Mobile grocery checkout: SKIP is back at NRF this year, and Macey’s, an Associated Food Stores grocery chain based in Salt Lake City, is using the SKIP app for line-free checkout and to better personalize offers and promotions for customers. Built on Azure, SKIP enables shoppers to build shopping lists at home and have their lists organized by aisle as they walk into the store. Then they simply scan each item as they place it in their cart and check out on the app when finished. In the first two months of deployment, Macey’s has seen an increase in repeat usage of SKIP from guests as well as an increase in average trips to the store and basket size.
• Mars Drinks Smart vending machines: Mars Drinks worked with Neal Analytics to apply Microsoft data and machine learning technologies to its vending machines. By connecting its machines to the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Intelligence Suite and Power BI technology, Mars Drinks can use remote sensors and predictive computing to better maintain stock levels, understand consumer behaviors and account for changes in demand related to factors such as weather and holidays.
• Hickory Farms: Each year, Hickory Farms opens and closes approximately 500 seasonal retail stores within the United States and Canada for the holiday season. The company needed a way to scale up and down quickly to account for this massive swing in business. The solution: replace four disparate legacy business systems with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to integrate its catalog and mail order, web, retail and wholesale operations into a single platform. The company can now automate manual processes, break down business silos and better manage inventory such as exactly how many summer sausages were sold and shipped from each location — something it hadn’t been able to do before without significant effort.
• Shelfie, the in-store robot: Unstocked shelves have met their match. Microsoft partner Lakeba has harnessed the power of robotics to solve low stock levels and incorrect product ticketing. Available as a robot or drone, Shelfie travels the store scanning shelves, enabling real-time stock reporting, identifying sales trends and providing intelligent insights to help optimize merchandise displays. With data analytics solutions running in Microsoft Azure, Shelfie empowers retailers to grow sales revenue and optimize profit margins — and frees up employees to focus on tasks that add bottom-line value.
• Powershelf: Regional supermarket chain Giant Eagle turned to the Powershelf system and support from Hitachi Consulting to digitize inventory management. Running on Microsoft Azure, Powershelf uses sensors on shelves and Power BI dashboards to give employees up-to-date insight into what to order. The technology can also change pricing electronically, measure inventory life and send shoppers product information on their mobile phones.
Microsoft StaffHub moved out of public preview and is now available on iOS and Android. Part of Office 365, Microsoft StaffHub allows staff and managers to share content, communicate with each other, and manage work schedules.
The NRF Big Show in New York City ends today.