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Retailers and Brands in Focus at Microsoft Envision & Ignite

By Tracy Issel, General Manager, Worldwide Retail & Consumer Goods, Microsoft on September 28, 2017

Filed under IT Leader

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking at Microsoft Envision

I spent the week with more than 25,000 of our customers and partners at Microsoft Envision and Microsoft Ignite. These joint events are for business and technology leaders to gain new business insights and learn about next generation innovations that will shape the future and drive business forward in new and impactful ways.

We were delighted to have so many wonderful attendees and speakers from the retail and consumer goods industries. Special thanks to those who spoke with us on stage including leaders from Bloomingdale’s, Fruit of the Loom, Giant Eagle, Henkel, King’s Hawaiian, Macy’s, Marc Jacobs, Mars, Smithfield Foods, and so many more. Their stories are inspiring. The culture changes they are leading in pursuit of the next billion customers, the reimagined experiences for shoppers, and the creative application of technology in support of these were really the highlight of the event. 
 
 
Latest technology trends from Microsoft Envision
 

The theme of this year’s conference was digital transformation, and we looked at where technology might take us next. As our CEO Satya emphasized in his keynote, digital technology is impacting all aspects of our society and creating unprecedented opportunity for organizations of all sizes. Digital transformation is the new normal, and the pace of innovation is certainly not slowing down.

We had some incredible industry breakout sessions and roundtables—always my favorite part— with customers sharing their challenges, breakthroughs, and plans with each other. Technology’s impact, and the speed that it’s catapulting us forward into new and unchartered territories, echoed throughout our discussions.
 
One retailer shared how what they built three years ago is already legacy. Another told how today’s shoppers are where the retailer had thought they’d be several years from now. Mars highlighted the challenges of connecting its global workforce of 80,000 associates at any one time. And in her conference fireside chat, GE’s Beth Comstock left the audience with this thought: “the world is never going to be as slow as it is today.”
 
As we talked about this pace of change and retail’s future, the latest innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), mixed reality, and data-driven insights trended to the top—looking at new ways to use them to transform the customer experience and move from stores to storytellers.

Smithfield Foods and Macy’s discuss how they are democratizing data to increase productivity among internal teams and transform customer interactions.

New technologies for retailers and brands

Another highlight of Microsoft Envision was being able to share and hear real-time feedback of the innovations we unveiled at the event; all focused on empowering people and organizations to succeed in this rapidly evolving workplace. Cloud, AI and mixed reality are infused throughout.
 
I felt a true sense of pride for the collective hard work of Microsoft’s own employees as I watched the large number of retailers and brands leaning in, asking questions, and sharing their excitement for the value these new technology innovations can bring to their businesses.
 
Here are a few highlights retailers and brands won’t want to miss.
 
Empowering employees and fostering a new culture of work
Microsoft has a new solution, Microsoft 365 F1, designed to maximize the impact of the Firstline Worker, representing your store associates on the shop floor, in the back office, those in the field, or any deskless worker. This new plan helps foster culture and community, train and upskill employees, digitize business processes, and deliver real-time expertise while minimizing risk and cost. We’re also adding new product capabilities to StaffHub and Windows 10 to keep everyone connected, automate device deployment, and manage single purpose devices.
 
You can read more details, and watch this video with brands like Fruit of the Loom offering their perspective.

Modernizing business processes with cloud and AI
Microsoft expanded Dynamics 365 with new AI solutions that transform critical enterprise scenarios and apps and services to help business users reinvent the processes they use every day. The first solution includes an intelligent virtual agent for customer care, an intelligent assistant for customer service staff and conversation management tools, all powered by Microsoft AI. Learn more here.
 
Watch how Macy’s is already using this technology to improve overall customer satisfaction and handle more requests, in a shorter amount of time.

Advancing the enterprise cloud
Microsoft Azure is driving new levels of organizational productivity, intelligent data-driven experiences and deepened business trust—all via a consistent, unique hybrid cloud approach. Across data, apps and infrastructure, whether on-premises or in the cloud, the benefits to retailers are exciting and vast. Azure Stack is now available through Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo for ready-made hybrid cloud. The new release of the world’s most popular database, SQL Server 2017, and enhancements to Azure Machine Learning will foster a new generation of intelligent apps and AI models. New capabilities also make it easier to move the store or distribution center to the cloud. You can enhance your ability to make real-time decisions, react to changing market demands and predict customer needs. The benefits of more effectively managing cloud spend, whether private or public, with scale, sovereignty, privacy and security at the forefront is uniquely possible with Azure and Azure Stack. Read the news and we’ll share more in a follow up blog.
 
The future of retail
 
As I leave the conference thinking about all the opportunities to create the future of retail and what that future may look like, I go back to something Doug Stephens, The Retail Prophet, said in his Microsoft Envision session. “The book of ecommerce is only in Chapter One, and the Chapter is titled ‘Amazon.’” 
 
Do you agree? Did you attend? If so, what stood out for you? If you missed the event, you can watch my session and other retail sessions here.
 
I’d love to hear from you as we engage and share our collective dream of what could happen, and the promise that something will.

LinkedIn: Tracy Issel

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