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Microsoft Industry Blogs

Keeping pace with shoppers’ changing expectations is no easy feat. We sat down with Microsoft’s retail team and digital marketing leader Adobe, who processes more than 90 trillion transactions a year, to talk about customer engagement in today’s digital age. Here is our Q&A with Michael Klein, Director of Retail Industry Strategy at Adobe, and Pinar Salk, Retail Industry Solutions Director at Microsoft.

Q: As we enter 2018, what’s the most pressing issue for retailers? 

Michael Klein: Today’s retail landscape has never been more competitive. Retailers are asking how they will compete with the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. And while ecommerce is growing, the reality is brick-and-mortar is still very much alive and well. Millennials and Gen Z shoppers like to “touch, feel, and try” the products before they buy, while using digital and mobile touchpoints as part of their shopping journey. 

Success today centers on the customer’s shopping experience, and retailers are looking at how to deliver and differentiate themselves—online and offline. In a recent Econsultancy survey performed for Adobe, nine out of 10 retailers now place customer experience as one of their top three priorities.

Q: What does today’s customer engagement need to look like? 

Pinar Salk: Meeting customer expectations and building loyalty in the digital age is all about having your entire brand working together to provide a seamless experience for consumers as they move from online to mobile to in-store, and back again. Retailers then need to further up the ante by making that experience both personalized and differentiated. 

Klein: We completely agree. Adobe considers personalization the holy grail of retail—across the entire customer journey and across devices. And yet we know that personalization is still lacking. In a study commissioned by Adobe, there remains a personalization gap between retailers and consumers. Approximately 70% of retailers believe they are delivering on the promise of personalization, while only ~30% of consumers believe they’re receiving personalized experiences.

Q: How can retailers address these challenges? What’s the role of technology innovation? 

Salk: The path to delivering personalized experiences is through your retail data. With no shortage of sources to draw from, new forms of intelligent analytics can mine, merge, and examine differing types of data to build a unified picture of each customer.

When applied to the customer experience, these innovations can then go to work for retailers throughout the shopping journey, infusing real-time insights wherever and whenever they’re needed. By combining and analyzing purchase history, demographic information, location and time of day, the result is digital engagements that are personal, contextual and relevant to each shopper.

Q: If new technology can help but personalization is still lacking, what’s holding retailers back from delivering?

Klein: A retailer’s commerce platform is often the primary interface for all applications that deliver the digital touchpoints in the customer journey. Yet these commerce platforms lack sufficient content and personalized capabilities required to deliver rich shopping experiences. They also rely heavily on IT to enable content and commerce changes, which can be slow to respond due to legacy systems and inadequate tools. Retailers need a flexible and scalable technology platform that connects marketing, sales, service and content management with a unified customer profile. That’s where Adobe and Microsoft saw an opportunity to help.

Q: How are Microsoft and Adobe helping make things easier?

Salk: Microsoft and Adobe share a vision for the future of the enterprise, one that is cloud-first, mobile-first and focused on delivering better customer engagement. We’ve partnered together to connect Microsoft’s intelligent cloud with Adobe’s advanced marketing services to give retailers everything they need to deliver seamless, compelling and personalized experiences to each of their customers across all touchpoints, every time they shop.

Q: Can you share some examples of benefits from this partnership? 

Klein: As retailers continue to address digital transformation along with the continued growth of eCommerce, they will need powerful tools to address consumer expectations in real-time. By bringing together Adobe Experience Cloud and Microsoft’s intelligent cloud & business applications, retailers are able to understand who the customer is, and deliver an engaging experience across all touch points; from awareness to advocacy. For example, the powerful integration between Adobe Campaign and Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows a marketer to tap into the rich CRM data within Dynamics to orchestrate more relevant, and valuable experiences and offers to consumers.   

The Adobe + Microsoft partnership delivers an intelligent, retail marketing framework that ties together rich data with content creation, management and delivery across all devices and channels to create a seamless experience from discovery to purchase. Working on one platform built on Microsoft Azure that can apply analytics throughout, allows retailers to manage the customer experience in context—before, during, and after the sale—to deliver the personalization shoppers are looking for.

Q: What can retailers expect to see from you at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show?

Salk: At NRF 2018, together with our customers and partners, Microsoft is showcasing the future of intelligent retail. Our emphasis is on data: what data retailers need, how best to collect and analyze, and we’re excited to feature how our joint efforts with Adobe are helping retailers transform their customer experiences.

Klein: We are looking forward to joining Microsoft in their booth, showcasing the unique benefits of our partnership and the combined power of our solutions. Specifically, we will demonstrate how, with Adobe’s Experience Cloud and Adobe Fluid Experiences for Retail, retailers can create and manage omnichannel experiences across any touchpoint, including in-store associate apps, social channels, physical signage, IoT devices and smart screens. Attendees will see how content is centrally managed and optimized as Fluid Experiences personalizes powerful brand experiences powered by the Unified Data Platform only Adobe and Microsoft can deliver. 

Additional Resources:
• Learn more about the Microsoft and Adobe partnership
• Microsoft at NRF 2018