Embracing tech intensity: retailers evolve to stay relevant - Retail Council of Canada
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Embracing tech intensity: retailers evolve to stay relevant

September 6, 2019

BY KEVIN PEESKER, President, Microsoft Canada

The retail industry has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade, and it continues to evolve quickly. There is a seismic shift taking place as technology unlocks new ways to customize the shopping experience and as shoppers increasingly desire on-demand, personalized service. With a third of Canadian customers ending a relationship with a retailer due to insufficient personalization, companies on the frontline with consumers and businesses are required to evolve to stay relevant.

Fortunately for retailers, technological innovations across cloud computing, data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are enabling a new era—an era when it’s possible to gain ten times the insights in one-tenth the time. Retailers that embrace these technologies are well-positioned to not only lead their industries, but also take share from the laggards.

Upping the Game

Tech intensity is our new reality. Companies need to not only be fast-adopters of best-inclass technology but also build their own digital capabilities. It’s out with the old and in with the new. And business leaders across every industry, retail and beyond, need to find comfort in being uncomfortable.

Tech intensity is about adapting a cultural mindset that welcomes and encourages employees to try new things and build new business processes that reward the development and propagation of digital capabilities. Retailers can now leverage technology to create end-to-end digital feedback loops, tear down data silos and unleash information flows to trigger insights and predictions, automated workflows and intelligent services that in turn create better, more personalized experiences for customers.

AI + Data = Retail Revolution

There are many organizations in Canada that are embracing tech intensity and reaping the benefits. Loblaw, Canada’s leading food and pharmacy retailer, is one great example of a company that is leaning into the potential of tech intensity— not an easy task for an organization that sees one-billion visits to its thousands of grocery, pharmacy, fashion and banking locations every year. With a company purpose of “Live Life Well,” Loblaw is committed to meeting its customers’ needs and helping them live their best lives.

To help support their multi-year transformational journey, Microsoft is partnering with Loblaw as they strive to unlock new opportunities with AI, machine learning, data and the cloud. Microsoft recently worked with Loblaw to integrate Microsoft’s AI technology within its PCOptimum loyalty program to match their member customers with better deals and offers based on their online preferences. By using Microsoft Azure to securely store and process data, Loblaw was able to redesign its customer data by taking apart siloed information, anonymizing, aggregating and building out a feature to customize offers at scale. By leveraging AI, Loblaw was able to democratize knowledge which created new opportunities for teams to collaborate and make decisions across varying business units.

Culture also played a big role in Loblaw’s transformation. As part of the partnership, Loblaw also leveraged Microsoft’s open-source cloud solutions and provided their digital teams with a familiar technology toolkit and were able to quickly upskill their employees, break down barriers between departments and build new digital skills across their teams, including a machine-learning practice.

Delivering Seamless Capabilities

Loblaw is just one great example of a retailer that has its sights set clearly on the future. At Microsoft, we have the opportunity to collaborate with many retailers in Canada as they embrace this new world of digital capabilities.

Through our deep industry focus and solutions built specifically for retail we are enabling the delivery of personal, seamless and differentiated experiences by empowering people, enabling the best of online and offline and capturing insights to drive growth. Our offerings are delivered on a common platform that can span both digital and physical environments, allowing retailers to benefit from seamless connectivity between solutions across their business. And our global partner ecosystem provides customers with more choice when it comes to the technologies they use to run their businesses—all built on one platform for ease of integration.

Constant Evolution

The key for success in today’s digital age is to recognize that tech intensity is a journey, not a means to an end. It requires a shifted mindset that is less linear and more willing to take a hybrid approach to challenges. It’s about this constant evolution, continuous education, and an openness to looking for new ways to connect and delight customers.

To learn more about how Microsoft is helping customers transform with Microsoft AI solutions visit: AI Innovation Site www.microsoft.com/en-ca/ai/empowering-innovation.