a group of people performing on a counter

Welcome to 2023—a new year packed with opportunities (and challenges) for all of us in the retail industry. During the past three years, we’ve experienced unprecedented economic, societal, and technological change, but for all that change one thing is clear—retailers are turning to digital technology like never before. Why? Because digital is what will make the difference between retailers that thrive and those that get left behind. Not only is it a way to navigate the headwinds we’re facing today, but it’s also a way to embrace the innovation that will define our tomorrow.  

Retailers in every category will need to weave technology into the fabric of their business so that they can do more with less. Every retail leader I speak to is clear-eyed about this. It’s what we call “Resilient Retail.”

Understanding Resilient Retail

To better understand what sets resilient retailers apart from the competition, we recently commissioned a study with Futurum Research. We surveyed 1,200 retailers with revenues of more than USD200 million across North America, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Malaysia, Japan, and Australia. When examined closely, survey results suggest that retailers who consider themselves “resilient” or “very resilient” use a mix of advanced technologies—AI, retail media advertising capabilities, dynamic pricing capabilities, shopper and operations analytics, and autonomous and automated stores, to name a few—in greater proportion than those who report their companies are “not resilient at all” or only “somewhat resilient.” What’s more, those retailers also:

  • Focused more on the end customer experience.
  • Put the frontline worker at the heart of everything they did.
  • Saw supply chain disruption as the top threat to future resiliency.

Be sure to join Futurum Research founding partner and principal analyst Daniel Newman and I on January 19, 2023 for the Microsoft Retail Digital Forum to learn more about the study and gain insights into what is driving resiliency among leading retailers.

Keys to resiliency

Now, the case for resilience in retail is clear. It’s why we’re so committed to helping the retail industry build it through solutions like Microsoft Cloud for Retail. On that note, I’m excited to announce two new capabilities focused on the digitization of the physical store and the front-line worker experience specifically.

1. Smart Store Analytics

There are many petabytes of data generated every hour in retail yet customer touchpoints are often not linked to each other and systems and data are siloed and disconnected. It means that most retailers are only set up to leverage a fraction of the data that is available. There’s no better example of this than the retail store. It’s why Microsoft is partnering with AiFi, the world’s most broadly deployed computer vision-powered autonomous store operator, with 100 locations deployed worldwide. Our vision is to become the smart store solution for retailers worldwide.

With our Smart Store Analytics solution, we’re providing retailers with e-commerce level shopper analytics for the physical space. A smart store is defined as a brick-and-mortar retail establishment that uses a variety of smart tech to track shoppers and shopping behavior all the way from product discovery through purchase. As retailers introduce new smart store formats, new customer signals and insights emerge. Through these insights, they can optimize everything from store layout and product recommendations to shelf placement and inventory. And ultimately, deliver a frictionless shopping experience for consumers. See how Zabka is leading the way with this experience.

Autonomous stores enable us to operate these stores more like an e-commerce (retailer). A physical retailer will be able to manage the store in a way that’s way more optimal for the consumer, from assortment selection to personalized promotions involving Zabka Nano products like ready meals, snacks, juices, and smoothies.

—Tomasz Blicharski, EVP of the Management Board of Zabka Group, Managing Director of Zabka Future
a person standing in front of a store window
Above: A Zabka autonomous store

2. Store Operations Assist

Retail always has been and always will be a “people business,” with many of those employed on retail’s frontline. As we all know, an investment in frontline workers’ experience is ultimately investing in the customer experience. Empowering store associates with the right tools, data, and insights can increase conversion rates and customer satisfaction. And as in-store shopping continues to come back strong, many retailers are making it a priority to empower their store associates with the technology needed to complete an increasingly complex set of tasks.

Store Operations Assist equips store associates to better serve and engage customers and be more productive by providing a single pane of glass with access to all the operational day-to-day activities—from curbside fulfillment to customer service scenarios—in the physical store. This application also allows store leadership to manage these operational store activities with dashboard-based analytics and insights.​

Screen shot of mobile product check in Store Operations Assist and mobile to-do list in Store Operations Assist.
Above: A single pane of glass for store associates.

National Retail Federation’s BIG Show

For those of you traveling to New York for the National Retail Federation BIG Show 2023, I look forward to seeing you there. And I look forward to showcasing these new Microsoft Cloud for Retail capabilities and more! Here are my top 5 ways to learn more and engage with Microsoft at the show and beyond:

  1. On Sunday, January 15, 2023, I’ll be sharing some incredible examples of resilient retail in action from retail leaders at Walgreens and Zabka on the Big Ideas stage.
  2. Monday, January 16, 2023, we’ll have our Corporate Vice President, Azure and Industry, Microsoft Corporation, Alysa Taylor, talking about what every retailer must know to navigate today’s landscape.
  3. Visit the Microsoft booth at NRF to experience resilient retail in real-life.
  4. Join us for Retail Digital Forum on Thursday, January 19, 2023.
  5. For more information about Microsoft announcements at NRF, be sure to read How Microsoft Teams empowers your retail workers, the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform, how the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform enables resiliency for retailers, and the latest on Retail Media Advertising omnichannel solutions.

Here’s to an incredible 2023 and here’s to building Resilient Retail together!

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