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Ten or twenty years ago, the future of retail was online shopping. Today, it is building seamless connections between physical locations and online stores so that customers can easily shop, order goods, or pickup items from a store or curbside service. Quarantines and social distancing only highlight the importance of building retail operations that start and end with the customer, online and off.  

That is why competitive organizations are turning to “intelligent retail,” where machine learning and edge technologies offer retailers a near-constant stream of information on customer behaviors. These technologies empower retailers to connect with their customers using frictionless engagement that is driven by deep insights and predictive analysis to create truly personalized customer experiences.

Delivering frictionless engagement online and off

One of the first steps to creating intelligent retail with personalized experiences is to provide a frictionless experience for customers. “Frictionless” means giving customers a unified and personalized experience across an entire business, from online to in-store, in a way that maintains high levels of brand consistency and personalization no matter where the customer is.  

For example, retail pharmacy operator, Walgreens Boots Alliance is on a multiyear mission to modernize many of its business processes by moving them to the cloud—including the company’s 100-terabyte SAP landscape. WBA’s Walgreens, Boots, Duane Reade, and select Rite Aid stores, focus heavily on delivering an exceptional customer experience. Creating these experiences relied heavily on new technologies and accessible data, thus triggering their transformation with cloud services like Microsoft Azure.  

By focusing on shifting data to the cloud, WBA was able to deliver a frictionless omnichannel customer experience, through intelligent chatbots and other new technologies. More importantly, these customers received a seamless and familiar experience across all WBA stores. 

With Dynamics 365 Commerce, businesses can meet customer needs around the world by managing online catalogs with a unified user experience. This way, employees and customers can find information and communicate with each other easily, breaking down barriers to a purchase.  

Collect insights to drive what you know about your customers

Having customer information on hand is wonderful, but businesses also need to be able to derive some insights from it so that they create unique, effective customer experiences. This is what intelligent retail is all about. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than grocery stores. With many businesses opting to limit the number of customers in their stores, many grocery chains and smaller grocers are turning to online orders for delivery and curbside pick-up. With more advanced online portals running on cloud platforms, these grocers can embed suggestive selling during the shopping experience or even during checkout to simulate suggestive selling that usually takes place at the counter.  

With modern analytics from tools like Azure Synapse, retailers do not just get notifications about what a customer bought. They can get actual intelligence on what that customer would like based on their history. Each shopping experience and purchase can become new data to build new insights for customers.  

All that means more intelligent sales, and more repeat customers.  

Use predictive analysis to stay ahead of your market curve

Customers evolve over time, which means that their tastes and habits evolve as well. New advances in machine learning and AI can power retailer-customer relationships with real, personalized insights that maximize lifetime value.  

Predictive analysis is a relatively new science in retail, but it has proven incredibly effective in composing big-picture profiles of customers and customer segments. Out-of-the-box AI solutions are already providing algorithms that can predict things like customer churn, product recommendations, and marketing actions that could entice long-term customers to come back after not shopping for long periods of time.  

Platforms like Dynamics 365 Customer Insights can plug into PowerApps and Power BI to so that retailers can build custom apps that help them care for their customers’ needs before they are asked, while informing sales, marketing, and outreach all from the same data pool.  

Conclusion

One of the biggest advantages of fielding intelligent retail solutions is the ability to support personalized and consistent engagement across all of a retailer’s sales channels without as much manual oversight on the part of the business. That means that a business can focus on customer service and sales in ways that your customers will not even notice until they have been wow-ed. And once a retailer wows a customer, they have made a customer for life.  

If you want to learn more about Intelligent Retail and Personalized customer service, read the Retail Trends Playbook 2021: Driving Operational Resiliency with Connected People and Systems.