Announcing new Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI-driven insights applications and our vision for the future of retail

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Last week, at a gathering of press and analysts in San Francisco, I had the privilege of introducing new features and applications for Dynamics 365, spotlighted by AI-driven insights that empower organizations to take informed actions and improve customer experiences. In addition, I presented our vision for retail, brought to life by two new applications—Dynamics 365 Commerce and Dynamics 365 Connected Store—that will help organizations transform the retail experience.

Helping worldwide business leaders drive intelligent action and make better decisions

More organizations are choosing Dynamics 365 and Power Platform than ever before – from industries spanning energy (ExxonMobil), to transportation (Virgin AtlanticPaccar), to sports and entertainment (Miami HeatTivoli) and many others. The common thread in our customers’ success is the power of a comprehensive, connected business cloud, drawing on unified data and applied intelligence to help customers make proactive decisions to positively impact their business. Customers have seen a transformative shift from a siloed to a proactive way of doing business.

This approach has a dramatic impact to business leaders to drive results across the organization.

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood and ask her about the transformational journey of Microsoft’s finance organization. Here is Amy in her own words, sharing how she thinks of our business applications portfolio and what business leaders like her need from technology solutions.

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Introducing new features and applications across our portfolio of AI-driven insights applications

Over the past year, we have been investing in our AI-driven insights applications. Today, we are unveiling new features for existing applications along with entirely new applications and capabilities. With the expansion of the portfolio, we can provide a 360-degree view of your business. One that goes beyond data capture and backward-looking insights, to unification of all data, providing forward looking intelligence. Powered by Azure AI, these tightly integrated capabilities can make AI real for businesses today and enable employees to proactively drive decisions and action.

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

Customer expectations are rising all the time, but people aren’t coming up with these new expectations on their own—it’s brands and businesses that excel at delighting their customers that raise the bar for everyone. Organizations that can adopt AI to manage and analyze data will be better positioned to build powerful relationship with customers over time.

Generally available earlier this spring, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights helps maximize customer lifetime value by surfacing a 360-degree view of the customer – to help organizations unlock insights and determine the best action possible to drive personalized engagement at scale.

Today, we are announcing new capabilities that extend Dynamics 365 Customer Insights beyond B2C scenarios to address complex B2B journeys. Now, with the ability to add an organization as a first-class entity, organizations can map leads and contacts to buying groups, accounts and account hierarchies, giving them the ability to build segments and measure the relationship between an account and contact.

Any organization—in any industry, from amusement parks to retailers and manufacturers— can effortlessly connect data from every source of interaction and arm employees with a single source of truth right within the external business applications they use every day.

Dynamics 365 Product Insights

Organizations on the quest to digitally transform their entire customer journey realize the important role product telemetry can play in terms of monitoring and learning from interactions a customer may have with connected products or services. These lessons help organizations to better understand customer expectations and then deliver more personalized experiences.

Dynamics 365 Product Insights is a new application to the portfolio that can bring insights from connected physical products and give visibility into product performance and customer interactions so organizations can build richer relationships and improve engagement.

Ecolab has been working with us in early development stages as they seek to improve operational efficiencies at nearly three million customer locations in more than 170 countries.

Previously, Ecolab struggled in the “signal collection” phase with disjointed data sets making integration of that data even more challenging. They needed an end-to-end solution for reactive and proactive repairs of their products. Looking at just one example – their Internet-connected commercial dishwashers— Ecolab will now be able to use Dynamics 365 Product Insights to identify anomalies, like an unexpected drop in water usage for a certain model range, and then analyze that data in real time to narrow down to specific model and firmware. Now, in a matter of minutes, they’ll be able to identify a solution to a product performance issue that used to be very time consuming or even impossible to uncover.

Ultimately, with Dynamics 365 Product Insights, Ecolab will be better positioned to unify development, deployment and usage data to get a view of their products; market, sell and better support their products; and then be more proactive with customers to optimizing their experience.

Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service

Customer service organizations have a growing need for deeper, more actionable insights to serve their customers, as well as tools to resolve customer issues quickly. New capabilities in Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service announced today, will enable service teams to more easily create and deploy virtual agents that engage in personalized conversations with customers without writing a single line of code. We’re releasing new authoring and web publishing improvements that will enable teams to deploy a virtual agent on a demo website for testing and stakeholder feedback before deploying on the external-facing website.

Once deployed, new AI-driven insights will allow managers to monitor performance metrics for the virtual agent. Through a new customer satisfaction dashboard, customer service managers can view the overall customer satisfaction score and bot topics driving the score. In addition, they can now view “hours saved” metrics—the return on investment provided by bot sessions compared to typical resolution times by human agents, who are now free to tackle more complex, time-intensive cases.

TruGreen, the largest lawn care company in the U.S., serves more than 2.3 million customers. With Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service, they will now be able to create and deploy a Virtual Agent on their website for routine inquiries in less than two days effort. Beyond simply answering routine questions, by utilizing out-of-the-box connectors from our Power Platform and the orchestration engine of Microsoft Flow, the TruGreen Virtual Agent will be able to take actions based on customer intent. For example, TruGreen can integrate to their ERP application to offer a customer visibility into their available account balance, and then schedule one of 13,000 technicians as a next best action. Ultimately, this will help TruGreen to reduce the call handling time for many of their customers most common requests via their website or mobile app, improving customer satisfaction while increasing their employee effectiveness as routine tasks are offloaded to virtual agents, freeing human agents to field more complex calls.

IoT Intelligence for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management

Product quality is at the heart of any customer experience. And capturing the signals created when customers use a product can be game changing but imagine if you could capture critical insight before the product leaves the manufacturing facility.

Organizations need a level of visibility and insight into shop floor and equipment operations—an end-to-end solution that provides real-time visibility of production and inventory by leveraging the power of AI, machine learning and mixed reality.

With new IoT Intelligence capabilities we’re announcing today, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management can connect IoT signals from mission-critical assets with business transaction data, enabling manufacturers and distributors to proactively manage production and stock in real-time, leverage predictive analytics to predict maintenance needs for business-critical equipment before downtime occurs, boost equipment performance and increase throughput, minimize waste and improve business performance.

With headquarters in Australia, Majans is a producer and distributor of snack foods on a global scale and is in the process of trialing these new capabilities to build their factory of the future. By integrating IoT Intelligence, connected devices can detect salt and moisture content in the snacks they make, as well as machine and production KPIs. Signals from connected machines create a digital feedback loop that helps Majans reduce waste, eliminate rework from packaging of poor-quality product, reduce factory downtime with predictive maintenance and connect people with data and insights to refine processes and standards.

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New applications to help industries bridge the digital and physical worldsstarting with retail and manufacturing

This is an exciting time to be involved in the retail industry. Shopping is no longer an isolated activity or a special destination, it’s something customers can do from anywhere, anytime.

Mobile and digital platforms have enabled customers to have access to information and shopping experiences that were not even possible just a few years ago. Consumer expectations have evolved so much that historical models of operation are no longer good enough. For example, 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember and provide relevant offers and recommendations.

With data driven intelligence, coupled with modern business applications, organizations can deliver personalized and differentiated shopping for their customers. We see this as a future of retail – and it is happening today.

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To bring this vision to life, we’re introducing two new applications that help transform the retail space – bringing together physical, digital and observational data sources to improve the store experience.

Dynamics 365 Commerce 

A new application that we are announcing today, Dynamics 365 Commerce, is a comprehensive omni-channel solution for retail and e-tail companies that unifies back office, in-store, call center and digital experiences.

A fully-connected solution that will evolve Dynamics 365 for retail, Dynamics 365 Commerce can transform the customer experience—from the digital experiences that make shopping fun and rewarding to productivity and collaboration solutions that help retail employees provide outstanding customer service.

In addition, intelligent systems provide deep insights to empower advanced decision making and personalization, delivering the fully connected commerce solution retailers need to build brand loyalty, optimize operations and supply chain efficiencies and deliver better business outcomes.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the third-largest premium wine company in the U.S., today announced plans to empower customers throughout the shopping experience and transform the way Ste. Michelle Wine Estates does business with Dynamics 365 Commerce as its end-to-end omnichannel solution across physical and digital channels.

With three distinct consumer touch points – e-commerce, traditional brick and mortar and loyalty programs such as wine clubs – Ste. Michelle Wine Estates was challenged by the complexity of the technology needed to provide a true 360-degree view of its consumer. To offer customers the best possible experience, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates plans to align its operations with Dynamics 365 Commerce to power a comprehensive customer engagement platform capable of integrating distinct brands across all its direct-to-consumer sales channels.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store

In retail, success relies on a consistent customer experience across web, mobile and physical storefronts. The challenge for omni-channel retailers is ensuring the same level of service and convenience in physical locations as online—from stocking the same variety of inventory to offering personalized recommendations based on browsing and buying behavior.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store is a new application that provides insight into the retail space, helping physical retailers understand and improve the in-store experience by analyzing disparate data from video cameras and IoT sensors to providing real-time and predictive insights that help store managers and employees make better decisions.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store uses observational data generated as customers move through the store, as well as the status of store equipment and product, to create employee alerts and actionable insights that can improve store efficiency. For instance, Connected Store can improve the checkout experience by triaging extra cashiers via instant notifications, based on sensor or camera data. Fluctuations in the condition of store equipment such as freezers and refrigerators can put product quality at risk. Connected Store, supported by Azure IoT Central, utilizes IoT sensors to monitor temperature and humidity, which can quickly highlight any anomalies to protect inventory.

Connected Store also tracks long-term trends in the retail space, illuminating patterns and opportunities across day-to-day, season-to-season activities and occurrences. Teams across the organization can stay updated with automated emails and a web app to review and report data. Whether you’re a regional manager who seeks to increase revenue and reduce cost by optimizing operations, a store manager who seeks to better-utilize their teams, or a store associate who seeks to better-prioritize their daily activities, Connected Store offers you benefits that can help you optimize customer experience.

Multinational retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) is deploying Connected Store at its flagship, located in the heart of London, helping them achieve their ambition of becoming a ‘digital-first’ retailer. Store managers report that Connected Store gives M&S employees a real-time understanding of what is happening within their retail space, allowing them to work more efficiently and provide a more personalized customer experience.

Here is a look into the impact Dynamics 365 Connected Store is having on M&S and how it is changing the way they deliver technology into their stores and into the hands of their colleagues.

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Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection general availability and new feature addressing wrongful declines

The cost of fraud to both banks and merchants as well as the customer shopping can be quite high and detrimental to a company’s bottom line. To combat this, we are announcing Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection will be generally available on October 1. This new application will decrease fraud costs and help increase acceptance rates for customer payment transactions with e-commerce merchants.

Banks and merchants can realize immediate benefits with Fraud Protection, but customer shopping experiences can also be improved by providing a seamless purchasing experience. The solution combats payment and account-creation fraud with AI technology that continuously learns and adapts to evolving fraudulent patterns.

As part of this release, Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection will include a new transaction acceptance booster that addresses wrongful declines – a common issue that negatively impacts both merchants and banks. Merchants can opt to participate in this feature to increase acceptance rates for authorization requests they make to issuing banks participating in Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection. Microsoft is at the Sibos 2019 global financial services conference this week showcasing this and several other announcements illustrating our focus on removing barriers for the financial services industry to adopting cloud technology and accelerate digital transformation.

Tune in to the Wave 2 Release Virtual Launch Event on October 10

Only Dynamics 365 connects all forms of data—from observational, to analytics, transactional and beyond – revolutionizing CRM and ERP, and empowering you and your employees to accelerate your business.

To learn more about the technologies we announced today and much more, join us on October 10 for the Microsoft Business Applications Virtual Launch Event—a free virtual event showcasing how we’re accelerating innovation with new features and capabilities across Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

With updates, insights and demonstrations directly from the experts, you’ll better understand how to leverage these new technologies as part of your own organization’s digital transformation initiatives.