Microsoft raises the bar for industry AI with revelatory retail offerings

  • Posted on January 11, 2024
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes
Microsoft generative ai retail offerings nrf 2024

It’s the second week of January, which means two things are now inevitable. #1: Enthusiasm for your new year’s healthy living resolution is already wearing thin. And #2: It has become impossible to avoid the rampant NRF pre-show buzz – whether you’re attending on the ground or following the conference digitally.

And Microsoft’s announcement today has probably only spiked that excitement to a feverish level.

Because, with just a few days before the retail industry’s grand global gathering in NYC, Microsoft has unveiled a series of solutions that set a new standard when it comes to industry-specific generative AI and data capability. These include:

  1. Copilot template for personalized shopping on Azure OpenAI Service
  2. Copilot template for store operations on Azure OpenAI Service
  3. Retail data solutions in Microsoft Fabric

With these solutions, Microsoft is offering something genuinely bold and new – generative AI capabilities that are truly built to specifically solve precise industry pain points. This is AI built for an exacting experience outcome: To elevate shopping and in-store associate experiences. And AI built for deliberate data advantage: To enable the full, frictionless power of AI across the entire retail value chain.

This is really important right now, because retailers are walking a tightrope. Inflation and supply chain pressures remain rife – but the competition for customer attention and loyalty (and the increasingly channel-less nature of commerce) is hotter than ever. Meanwhile, retailers must somehow strike a balance between carefully controlling costs and tackling shrink without compromising on the agility that’s required to seize competitive advantage and grab fast-emerging opportunities.

Growth in these most challenging of times requires greater intelligence, insight and innovation than ever before. And that’s of course why retailers are flocking to generative AI – seeking to unlock the value of their data to customize shopping experiences, enhance store associates’ performance and productivity, and ultimately elevate engagement across the shopper journey.

So, what exactly has Microsoft announced today – and why is this already making waves in the retail sector? Here’s our “unashamedly zealous Microsoft partner zero” overview.

#1: Copilot template for personalized shopping on Azure OpenAI Service

What is it?

This newly announced AI shopping assistant is a Large Language Model (LLM) that elevates shopping experiences by providing deeply tailored, personalized recommendations that meet a specific customer’s unique needs. Built on Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service and made available through Microsoft Fabric, this Copilot template is all about maximizing the value of your existing data to transform shopping experiences for customers.

What does that mean for retailers?

Copilot template for personalized shopping on Azure OpenAI Service gives retailers the power to not only improve conversion but also enhance satisfaction and loyalty, through on-demand, personalized shopping advice – delivered in the form of ordinary “natural language” conversations. By harnessing the power of generative AI and applying it to existing retail data (for example, product catalogs, pricing and promotion data, inventory availability), this AI shopping assistant gives shoppers more relevant, real-time and accurate responses.

What else can we tell you?

As Accenture and Avanade – we’ll be one of the first to showcase this capability – with a bespoke generative AI shopping demo for one of the world’s largest retailers, ready for you to experience on the NRF show floor in the Microsoft booth, location #4503, and in our lounge space at #4A1.

#2: Copilot template for store operations on Azure OpenAI Service

What is it?

Another LLM assistant, the Copilot template for store operations is designed to help store associates be their best by providing them with automated information access and task management. It uses natural language capabilities to deliver simple, swift answers to associates’ questions around key operations or product information – gathering insights that would otherwise be buried deep in documentation, taking significant time to first access and then digest. This Copilot also enables frictionless, natural language-based task creation for frontline workers.

What does that mean for retailers?

Copilot template for store operations on Azure OpenAI Service gives retail employees access to the information they need fast and freely – right within the flow of their daily work. Everything from store operating procedures, product data and information, even HR policies and benefits. Meanwhile, through natural language prompt-enabled task creation and assignment, workflows become simpler to manage. This means store associates can be more productive and efficient – and focus on higher value activities, like engaging with customers on the shop floor.

What else can we tell you?

Thanks to our unmatched development access, we’ve been involved in this journey with Microsoft from day one. And again, we’re hugely excited to be able to showcase the power of the Copilot template for store operations live in our lounge space at NRF: location #4A1.

#3: Retail data solutions in Microsoft Fabric

What is it?

Last but not least, is this pioneering retail-specific data model, which lives on Microsoft Fabric and helps retailers to accelerate time to insight by taking care of the hard data science work (unifying, enriching and modeling data) for the retailer. Through the power of Microsoft Fabric, retailers can consolidate data from multiple sources into one centralized, secure hub – ensuring a single version of truth – and then apply this data model to accelerate insight generation.

What does that mean for retailers?

Thanks to Microsoft Fabric, and its ability to unify data and derive insights faster, retailers can make more-informed, more-relevant decisions across the customer’s shopping journey – and react at a much faster speed. One early example of the unique potential of these retail data solution in action is Microsoft’s newly launched connector with Sitecore OrderCloud. This connector enables product, customer, and order data housed in OrderCloud to now benefit from retail analytics capabilities within Microsoft Fabric. And, once again, this means less engineering and data science effort and faster time to value for retailers.

What else can we tell you?

It just so happens that as well as being one of Microsoft’s leading partners, we’re also one of Sitecore’s best friends. And – as you can probably guess by now – we’re ready and raring to show the AI power of the Sitecore OrderCloud at our space at NRF. Come see our AI-powered Sitecore connector in our lounge: location #4A1.

Regenerative retail AI: With Avanade, Microsoft, Sitecore and more
We can’t wait to talk to our customers and partners at NRF about the huge potential of Microsoft’s new gen AI solutions and explore how they can be employed to power resilient, responsible retail (re)growth.

Find the Avanade lounge at location #4A1 in the Javits Center – or head to our NRF information page to find out more about our program. We look forward to seeing you in NYC!

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