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Throughout the retail industry, retailers of all sizes are looking for ways to transform the customer journey. Shopper expectations demand it. The good news is that with the latest advancements in retail analytics and AI technology, retailers can now put customers truly at the center of their business and create the personal, differentiated and seamless experiences that shoppers are looking for. Let’s look at how this works. 

Using data as a competitive advantage

We are living in an age of abundant data. Retailers are flooded with it. They have access to so much and so many varieties of transaction and customer data, it has become a huge task to mine it and convert it into logical and useful insights.

But retailers’ success in driving better customer shopping experiences depends on it. New forms of retail analytics and artificial intelligence hold the key to identifying and enabling opportunities locked away in these data sources. Those who embrace these intelligent technologies will have a significant competitive advantage. IDC reports that by 2017, retail companies that take advantage of their data have the potential to realize an additional $94 billion in revenue over companies that don’t.

Amplifying human ingenuity with intelligent technology

One of the things I’m most excited about is the potential these innovations have to amplify human ingenuity—extending and empowering the capabilities of all those who work in the retail industry.

AI technology is modeled after the human brain—which senses, processes, and acts on information—learning and adapting over time, largely through the identification of patterns in data.

When applied to your data, this intelligent technology can go to work for you and your employees—learning and forming conclusions with imperfect data; interpreting the meaning of data including text, voice and images; and interacting with people in natural ways. 

Creating a connected customer journey

As we look at the types of customer experiences shoppers want, today’s innovations like chatbots, cognitive and machine learning, advanced analytics, and blockchain—combined with connected devices like beacons, machines and headsets—can infuse data and insights wherever they’re needed throughout the customer’s shopping journey.

The result? Digital engagements that are personal, contextual and relevant based on purchase history, demographic information, location, time of day, and other data sources. Here are some examples of what retailers can now do.

  • Connect with customers at the right time and in the right place with the right offers by gathering data from various points of customer contact to understand customer behaviors and respond with relevant offers.
  • Give sales associates the customer data they need to deliver a personalized in-store experience, and the ability to help customers with mobile POS, assisted selling, clientelling and bot applications on mobile devices.
  • Enable engaging, information-rich experiences in store with bots, personalized kiosks, and mobile apps.
  • Predict what customers want before they tell you using predictive retail analytics solutions to create relevant cross-sell and upsell opportunities throughout the customer journey.
  • Ability to add items to an omni-cart from every digital touchpoint in the shopping journey, and quickly checkout through consumer and sales associate mobile apps.
  • Continue to improve, shorten and transform the customer journey based on reinforced learning and personalization & recommendation engines.

Explore the real possibilities of intelligent technology

This video showcases what a connected customer journey can look like when advanced retail analytics and AI technology are applied to the shopping experience. The possibilities are both exciting and real, and leading retailers are already putting them to work to help transform their customer service. Let’s look at a few examples.

Lowe’s demos virtual showroom using cognitive AI and mixed reality

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s teamed up with Microsoft to use cognitive AI and mixed reality to help reinvent visualization and design in a whole new way. With AI capabilities, its HoloLens kitchen design tool can analyze customers’ Pinterest boards to define their personal style, provide recommendations based on the look and feel they want to create, and make more tailored suggestions as trends and preferences evolve. You can learn more here.

Dixons Carphone helps customers find what they want using chatbots

UK-based Dixons Carphone is another retailer tapping into the power of AI technology to deliver personalized shopping experiences across channels. A major European electronics and telecommunication retailer and service provider, it’s using the capabilities of the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to build AI into its customer interactions, boosting engagement and empowering its employees. You can learn more about their success story here.

Macy’s uses AI-driven virtual agent to transform customer service

To optimize the shopping experience, Macy’s enhanced its website with a virtual agent based on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI solution for customer service. With deep connections to back-end systems, the virtual agent can take action to solve customer issues and transfer customers seamlessly to a live agent if necessary. The virtual agent is already answering more than one quarter of customer queries. Hear their story.

To learn more about advanced retail analytics for customer experiences, check out this eBook, and go here to explore AI products and solutions that are available today. We look forward to helping put your data to work for you to transform the customer journey.

And if you’re attending Future Decoded, I will be talking more about this on October 31 at 11:30 a.m. Join us!

LinkedIn: ShiSh Shridhar
Twitter: @5h15h