Microsoft Retail Symposium 2017
Of retail and its digital transformation

Last week, Déborah ATTIAS (VISEO Luxury Sector Manager) took part in the first Retail Symposium organized by Microsoft to exchange ideas on its ecosystem and digital transformation of the sector. Find her analysis and the main elements that emerged from the conferences and round tables.    

Déborah notices that the consumer is not anymore at the center of the concerns of the sector but that the collaborator and the seller have become a major stake.

The 4 major initiatives in retail and distribution in France today are indeed customer experience and hyper customization, operational excellence (optimization of stocks and assortments, improvement of forecasting efficiency, improvement of success rates of campaigns, etc.), cost reduction and the development of employees' capabilities.

During this event, Microsoft also unveiled the results of a survey conducted by IDC with key players in the retail market on the latest trends and challenges of the digital transformation of the sector.

What's new for point-of-sale digitization?

One of the first points broached in the round table was the emergence of robots in the stores, with an impressive video of Fellow, a robot that accompanies customers in their purchases while performing inventories on the shelves by a simple scan, to ensure the permanent re-assortment.

The question today is: will the transformation of outlets eventually lead to the replacement of employees by robots? A 2016 study conducted by 350 experts in Oxford Artificial Intelligence predicts that within 45 years, robots will be able to replace men in almost all trades. The first trades affected would be those of the translation, driving of vehicles, as well as the point-of-sale staff, which would be replaced in only 15 years. However, this study is to be relativized: robots were predicted in retail for a long time and one has to admit that, to date, all the points of sale are far from being equipped. The round table also highlighted the renewal of the customer experience by the technologies as well as the acceleration of the omnichannel through the Back Office and the optimization of the supply chain.

Data: how to use and secure it and how to optimize its operations and meet the challenge of the omnichannel ?

Data takes a fundamental role in a brand new customer relationship. We are no longer on a model where one could have a personal knowledge of the customer because he came regularly to the store. Today, the knowledge of the client is much more diffuse: as he comes less and less often in shops, there are more and more points of contact between the customer and the brand (mobile, web, social networks). The data becomes critical in improving the customer experience (67% of Big Data projects) and operational efficiency (56% of Big Data projects).


Artificial Intelligence, BOTS, and Cognitive Services: How to Innovate in Customer Relationship?

A video featured a connected car driving alone, detecting the driver's tiredness and offering him to stop for a coffee. Knowing his preferences, his café latte is ready when he arrives and he will pay it with a device embedded in his cuff link. This video seems futuristic and yet Volvo has already integrated Cortana into its vehicles: the Artificial Intelligence is now within everyone’s reach.

A panorama of the artificial intelligences in the Retail was drawn up, highlighting the GAFA well represented on the automotive sector. Therefore, Pikit was presented as the most innovative connected object on the retailer side.

How do the players in the sector reinvent themselves by transforming their products & services?

The last part of this round table featured a beta test in Shanghai, where the trade comes to the customer on demand, such as an "uberstore", and where it is no longer necessary to take out a means of payment. Get out of the store with the selected items will debit our purchases on our account. This video, although somewhat agonizing, shows us that places of sale are becoming places of life where the customer experience takes precedence over the purchase as such, which becomes just a final stage in the journey.      
In conclusion, it can be said that retail is no that ahead of its time, for it has been caught up by the other sectors :  today it has to be at the forefront of new technologies, whether to rethink the customer experience (Chatbot, IA, Vocal Assistants ...) or to optimize their Back Office for better operational efficiency of their teams (Supply Chain, optimization of financial processes).

A word to the wise, however.