Retail has always been an industry fueled by change. That’s even more true today, when the whims and desires of customers can change at the speed of a tweet. The most successful retailers are obsessively customer-focused.
Today, that means understanding that everyone with a smartphone has a shopping mall in their pocket, and retailers need to really anticipate what their customers want – then deliver it when, where and how they want it. All at the right price. That heart-and-soul focus on the customer – and the rapid change that comes with it – is what I love about retail.
Shelley Bransten, corporate vice-president, Retail and Consumer GoodsAt Microsoft, a huge part of our customer focus is helping our retail customers gather, analyze and use data to build a hyper-focused picture of their customers, then understand how best to reach them. On the other side of the equation, it’s about empowering the retail workforce, giving them the tools they need to delight customers and keep them coming back. And smarter supply chains help ensure the right customers get the right product, at the right price, at the right time.
It’s all about using intelligent technologies to help retailers transform their companies and create fresh customer-obsessed ways of doing business. I believe there are four key areas that retailers must focus on in order to provide these great customer experiences. And it doesn’t matter what a retailer sells or how large (or small) they are – the potential for transformation has never been greater. It’s exciting, and it’s filled with opportunity.
Know Your Customers Better than They Know Themselves
We’ve established that I’m a fan of reimagining things. So it may not surprise you that I’ve rebranded “AI,” in my mind, at least. For me, it’s not so much “artificial” intelligence as “augmented” intelligence. Because, for retailers, it’s really about tapping into data – their own and from third-party sources – and using it to understand their customers better and anticipate their needs.
Take, for instance, Nielsen Connect, a service that taps into Nielsen’s massive amount of third-party data on consumer products sales, pricing, e-commerce, media buying and other things, and combines it with retailers’ own data in the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. The solution uses data science and machine learning to curate and aggregate data and feed it back to retailers. And when you layer in predictive analytics, we bring retailers that much closer to divining what customers want. When retailers augment their intelligence with these technologies, they can make smarter decisions that turn data into dollars.