Three things retailers need to do now to transform their businesses with technology

Next week at the National Retail Federation Big Show (NRF), Microsoft will show how technology is changing the retail industry and outline three things retailers need to do to take advantage of those technological innovations. While at NRF, we will also showcase a number of customers making big bets on the Microsoft platform as well as a number of new product offerings aimed at transforming the way retailers engage with their customers. A number of our partners will also unveil new applications and services built using Microsoft technologies.

Never before have there been such dramatic shifts in consumer shopping behavior, preferences and expectations. Technology is influencing these changes and enabling consumers to access information through online channels, apps and mobile devices. Here are three things the world’s leading retailers need to do to transform their businesses using technology:

Create unified experiences across connected devices. The proliferation of devices creates opportunities for retailers to think about their use in a different way. For example, we have retailers who are changing the fitting room experience and others who are enabling customers to buy online, while in the store – all through the use of devices. Their commitment to exploring how mobility can create a more seamless experience with improved access to information, better collaboration and familiar productivity applications is helping them stay ahead of their competitors.

Enable smarter operations. Using data and connecting the front and back office are helping retailers get better business insights and allowing them to react faster. For example, Microsoft technologies can bring real-time data to suppliers about what is currently in stock on a store shelf without requiring employees to do a physical inventory in the store. These innovations not only save time, optimize resources and maximize profitability, but they enable retailers to better utilize employees’ expertise to meet the needs of their customers.

Engage employees. We have so many great examples of retailers using technology to maximize their greatest asset, their people. They do this by ensuring that mobile workers such as store associates are able to realize the benefits of new productivity tools or though enabling store associates to communicate via social channels about what promotions are working in their various stores. Many retailers are finding that engaged employees, using tools such as Office 365 and Yammer, are able to make more informed decisions on behalf of the customer – thereby creating better business results.

Consumers today expect their shopping experience to be personal and tailored to them. They want to shop at their convenience and have connected experiences both online and in stores.

The retail landscape has changed a great deal over the past few years. In some cases, consumers walk into stores knowing more about the products than store associates, or they relegate the in-store experience to showrooming – checking out things in the store, then buying them elsewhere at a lower cost.

When I talk with retailers about the changes in consumer behavior that technology is driving, I’m excited by the ways in which Microsoft can help. It’s clear that most consumers expect a personalized retail experience and store associates need the right tools to help them serve their customers and succeed in an always-on world. Successful retailers are reimagining how they can effectively use data, devices and new opportunities to their advantage – to not only meet consumer expectations, but to go beyond it to create standout experiences.

At NRF, we’ll show how Microsoft is helping retailers grow their businesses in a more secure, cost-efficient way that builds customers’ trust and long term loyalty.