PPE in retail: Pivot, pilot and expand to deliver premium experiences

  • Posted on August 26, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Pivot, Pilot And Expand For Premium Retail Experiences

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Venkat Rao.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all too familiar with the acronym, PPE, which stands for “personal protective equipment.” As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s quite likely that PPE will take on a new meaning for the retail and restaurant service industries: pilot, pivot and expand. The pandemic may have laid bare some of our weaknesses, but it has also driven home a key need: the necessity of being nimble in the face of the next black swan event.

In the immediate wake of the pandemic, retailers and restaurateurs were forced to alter business models – and the underlying technology that drives those models – in response to dramatic shifts in consumer behavior and crushing supply chain disruptions. You adapted to weather the immediate storm, but what does that mean for long-term strategy and future resilience?

Going forward, it seems that short-term shifts may lead to ongoing, purposeful pivots. Before committing your organization wholly to a new direction – and to the tech needed to pursue the new path – retailers will first need to test-drive their pivot-hypotheses through intentional pilots before expanding those successes at scale. The key to this progressive PPE approach is to test small, test often and scale accordingly. Using this cautious but agile approach, retailers big and small can achieve true digital transformation, which is a constantly calibrated process of change in response to endlessly shifting external factors.

The tools for innovation at scale

While the PPE approach sounds attractive, how do you get to that promised land with tools that you can easily use? The answer: Microsoft’s Power Platform and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement solutions help you innovate safely and pivot at speed by piloting and perfecting new approaches. Once you complete those test drives, you can use these very same tools to extend and expand the successful pilots at greater scale.

One of the many advantages of Microsoft’s Power Platform is that its four key components – Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents – help you develop customer engagement solutions without the need for a hefty IT team behind the scenes. Think of the Power Platform suite like a palette that helps you design what’s new and next for customer engagement. You plug and play according to your needs. Power Platform also lets you build quickly – so you can test fast for better speed to value.

Once you have designed and tested your solution, you can both personalize and scale it using the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement platform. This integrated, full-suite CRM solution operates with a unified customer data platform, allows you to create and maintain a comprehensive view of your customers so you can act on the results from your pilots. You can deliver the right, personalized engagement for the right person at the right time.

The art of the possible

What does all this mean for you? What do these possibilities look like for your business? To explore further, Avanade’s Retail Virtual Experience team recently led a set of innovation lab events in which they defined the opportunity zones ripest for retail’s digital revitalization:

  • In-store
  • Online
  • Store edge
  • Back-of-house

Here’s a sneak peek as to how you can use Power Platform and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement in each of these opportunity zones. Learn more details about each in our upcoming series of posts.


Many shoppers remain cautious about returning in-store. At the same time, many in-store workers remain nervous about in-person interactions. Expect in-store appointment setting to be important in post-pandemic retail. Customers might look for ways to facilitate more curated interactions using online tools. And, in-store employees may want to better prepare for those visits by knowing customers’ history and interests ahead of time. Microsoft Power Platform helps test drive an app that will let your customers and associates do just that.

In-store Microsoft Power Platform Curated Interactions


Consumer shopping behaviors are constantly turning on a dime. Use Microsoft Power Platform’s Power Automate tool to pull to core customer sentiment data, present it via Power BI and harness its benefit to fine-tune your marketing messages.

Online Shopping Power Platform Pulls Customer Data

Store edge

The “buy-online, pick-up at store” (BOPAS) process is uneven across retailers. A few large retailers with big IT budgets have created relatively frictionless customer experiences. Many still have not. Retailers that are still scrambling to get anything at all in place to facilitate the process, can use Microsoft Power Platform to develop chatbots to keep store associates and customers equally informed – and happy – throughout the omnichannel process.

Store edge Microsoft Power Platform Develops Chatbots


Even in the best of times, retail returns can be a complex customer service and logistics challenge. The pandemic has disrupted the supply chain and reduced customer patience levels even more. Power Platform is a great tool for developing re-commerce apps that empower your store associates to make product returns easier for customers and less costly for retailers.

Back-of-house Digital Transformation Is A Necessity

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that business as before will no longer sell. Digital transformation is not a nice-to-have, it’s an absolute necessity so you’re not caught on the back foot ever again. In future posts, we explore each retail opportunity zone and how you can be intentional about piloting, pivoting, and expanding on customer and associate experiences that produce outstanding results.

Learn more about how Avanade is helping clients with intelligent retail solutions.

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