Christmas Shopping in Oxford Street.

It’s hard enough to deliver exceptional customer experiences outside of retail’s hottest time of the year. So what do you need to do to prepare for the no-holds-barred holiday season where anything goes to get the ultimate gift at the best price? As the song goes, the holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but in the reality of retail, it is the most challenging time of the year due to the volume and unpredictability of consumer demand in the face of currently restricted resources. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday to Super Saturday up to the final countdown to your holiday of choice, it’s a struggle to meet heightened customer expectations.  

Microsoft Cloud for Retail

Connect your customers, your people, and your data.

Retail shop owner working on Microsoft 365 Business Premium a mobile phone and a Surface.

The hunt begins

According to eMarketer Insider Intelligence trends, forecasts and statistics, “the search for the best possible price is lengthening the shopping season. Nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of adults have already begun their holiday shopping (October) to avoid future price hikes.” 

Most shoppers start their gift pursuit online, across a myriad of channels, and are continuing to add new shopping methods acquired during the COVID-19, such as buy online with pick up in-store or at curbside. They want to get their shopping done earlier to beat the crowds and avoid shipping delays. They want to be able to shop with their mobile phone and social retail, while some still enjoy the chase, lying in wait to be the first in-store to beat out rival shoppers for the most sought-after gifts.  

Marketers are exhausted trying to keep up and have limited resources to work across an array of tools to meet these demands. And it doesn’t stop there: don’t forget the aftermath of post-holiday returns. Marketers, retail associates, and customer care agents are under pressure to ensure returns are exchanged for exactly what the recipient was hoping for and ensure the original purchase revenue is retained as well as the recipient’s loyalty, who may not even be a current customer. The holiday shopping cycle is complex it not only requires knowing the customer but also the recipient of the customer’s gift, their interests, and brand affinities as well as understanding their own customer journey with the retailer.

Our approach to innovate CX

We know these challenges firsthand. After all, we are also a well-known business-to-consumer retailer. Have you ever seen the lines of shoppers outside of a big box retailer on Black Friday hoping to score the latest Xbox console? We have, and we learned how to capture insights from shopper behavior, turn it into action to personalize customer experiences, and, during the process, transform consumers into super fans. As an example, we leveraged customer insights to pick up a social signal where a shopper who was camping out in a line on Black Friday in front of a big box retailer posted, “I wish Microsoft Xbox delivered pizza,” and based on our understanding of the customer, we were able to orchestrate a promo for a pizza and have it delivered to him on the spot. We earned a heart and a fan who drove significant likes on our social channels. What’s more, this kind of customer experience created memorable positive impressions of our brand beyond the product launch.   

Happy Xbox One customers at a New York Launch event, holding their new Xbox products and smiling”

We learned early on that customer experience (CX) is a game changer and built the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform founded on our own needs. As consumer behaviors and expectations continue to evolve, we continue to invest in this space and innovate with every release to bring new capabilities to retailers that enable them to surprise and delight their customers in moments that matter, be it the holiday season or every day of the year.

The gift that keeps on giving

CX knows no boundaries. It goes beyond the holiday season. It continues to grow and expand across organizations. It is not the responsibility of one line of business; it is everyone’s role within the organization, whether customer-facing or behind the scenes. Transform CX with our latest innovations and give shoppers a gift they will remember all year long: the gift of exceeding their expectations and an experience like no other. Here are some pointers on how to use the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform to reduce holiday CX casualties and transform CX every day:

1. Maximizing the value of your data

The first step in driving impactful experiences is to grasp the needs and specificities of each customer. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights capability helps you realize the true value of your data by unifying disparate sources across the complete view of a shopper’s journey to discover insights that enable better experiences. Combining those data points into a unified customer profile improves your customer understanding, allowing you to engage them as individuals targeting their personal needs, all powered by AI.

Once you know your customer you can continue to unlock omnichannel insights with shopper and operations analytics. Using Customer Insights with Azure Synapse Analytics helps you combine business operations data such as supply chain and pricing with customer insights, including demand by demographics, geography, and brand affinities, to conduct advanced analytics to predict and manage product availability, to optimize price and recommend the next best product to ensure customer expectations are met. Read how Edible Arrangements is doing this today.

2. Elevate the shopping experience

The holidays put additional pressure on retail consumers. They demand an experience that is tailored to their tastes and respects their time and energy. Brands must not only meet expectations but also elevate the experience to the next level. This requires real-time personalization throughout the customer’s journey. The Microsoft Customer Experience Platform capabilities with Dynamics 365 Marketing utilize the insights about the customer and activate them in real time to identify segments and preferred channels, trigger flawless journeys, create self-service content, and deliver hyper-personalized experiences not just based on who the customer is, but also in real-time based on what they are doing. For example, Leatherman, an American brand of multitools and knives, is using our solution to better understand customer brand and interest affinities, customer lifetime value, and use this insight to orchestrate highly personalized cross-channel journeys at scale: from welcome journeys to post-purchase communications to checking in when customers haven’t made a purchase in a while. The Microsoft Customer Experience Platform helps tailor the experience differently for new customers versus those who are on their way to becoming brand ambassadors. Read the full Leatherman story.

3. Real-time communications and collaboration

Be it the retail store associate, customer care agent, or—in the case of Campari—a Camparista, frontline workers are one of your organization’s most valuable assets. The Microsoft Customer Experience Platform provides the means to utilize data across the customer’s journey and transform it into insights that can be seamlessly activated in customer care systems and in the hands of retail associates, be it on a mobile device, text message, email or through a dashboard in Microsoft Teams. The converged intelligence across sales, service, and marketing ensures frontline workers have real-time insights into customer interactions across the enterprise and are provided with recommendations for the next best action, products based on inventory, store availability, and customer affinities as well as understanding the customer’s last interaction with customer care. Store collaboration and communication fueled by insights empower store associates to maximize sales and customer care agents to be as effective as possible and deliver smart assistance in moments that matter.  

Microsoft’s solutions empower the retail industry to connect your customers, your people, and your data. Connected, these applications unlock unique opportunities to create individualized experiences that meet customers’ expectations whether it be the holiday season or all year round.

Learn more

Learn more about Microsoft Cloud for Retail and how you can use Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Dynamics 365 Marketing, and Dynamics 365 Sales to meet your customers’ expectations and bring your customers into focus with the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform.

You can also download a free trial of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing. And for the latest on how Microsoft and our partners are helping retailers elevate the customer experience, download the ebook Reimagine Retail in the Digital Age