24 July 2018

According to the stats, things are looking good for the retail sector. It contributed £194 billion to UK economic output last year, employs nearly 2.9 million people, and one-third of total consumer spending goes through retail.

However, today’s retail landscape is a complex one. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to what a retailer should be, do, or stock. A retailer can sell what they want, where they want and connect with customers in a multitude of different ways.

Customers are able to shop at any time – and they do. Alongside traditional bricks and mortar stores, the internet has created a range of different retail platforms. The challenge for retailers is to connect with customers on those platforms and make the most of every opportunity open to them.

Needless to say, competition in the retail space is fierce. Success comes down to how businesses develop new capabilities for digital transformation, how they use systems to leverage people, processes and data, and how rapidly they can renew themselves.


AI in retail

For retail, artificial intelligence (AI), data, personalisation and convenience are at the heart of digital transformation; they also pose both challenges and opportunities for the sector.

Microsoft is ramping up its work to apply AI technologies to the retail checkout space. According to Reuters, Microsoft has a group within its AI team dedicated to applying computer vision and its ‘intelligent edge’ work.

Microsoft also has Dynamics 365 for Retail. Designed to help retailers optimise their processes across all areas of the business, this end-to-end retail solution delivers a unified commerce experience in an omnichannel environment. It allows a range of channels to work collaboratively with one another, giving customers a fuller, richer, more holistic experience, and importantly, allowing the customer to choose their channel of choice for purchase.


Key features of Dynamics 365                       

Bringing together sales, mobility, intelligence and productivity, Dynamics 365 helps retailers become cloud-first and mobile-first. And with more retailers looking to pin their customer and operations strategies on third-party platform technologies, Dynamics 365 is on hand to help.

Here are some of its key features:


1. Channel management

According to a Digital Marketing Trends study by Econsultancy, by 2020, customer experience is set to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In addition, businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don’t. Dynamics helps retailers define the configuration of their stores – physical, online, call centres, or any combination of the three.


2. Attracting and retaining customers

Customer needs are changing constantly and retailers need to be able to quickly and effectively keep up with changes in buying habits and trends. A study by Mood Media revealed that 83% of global consumers use their mobile phones for product information while in-store, while 53% (73% of younger shoppers) would like to receive immediately-redeemable discounts pushed to their phones while in-store. Personalising the customer experience helps reduce the number of abandoned online baskets and sets one retailer apart from the rest.


3. Smarter retail hardware

As an integrated point of sale system, Dynamics 365 can be operated on-site (mPOS), or through the cloud (cPOS) via a range of devices. Both options offer a range of interfaces to fit with different business scenarios. This means different locations can have their own payment options, delivery methods, pricing and discounts.


4. Analytics and intelligence

Many of the challenges faced by retailers can be met through machine learning. The more predictive, optimised and personalised the insights gained, the greater the growth and profitability. Advanced analytics also helps customers identify the products and services that meet their needs before making the purchase.


If you’re looking to integrate AI technologies into your retail business to stay ahead of your competitors you’ll need the talent to action that. Get in touch with Talent International today to find out how we can help you.