It’s clear from the shopping trends in recent years and the fierce competition retailers face, that they need to create differentiated and delightful digital experiences for customers to use when and wherever they choose: in-the-store, online and on-the-go. Shopping experiences are increasingly more interactive, more personal and more multi-channel. Millennials, of course, are a big part of this transformation and by default so are their parents, me included. My young kids are in tons of sports and other activities and have limited time to shop, yet still seem to find time via their various mobile devices to find and buy the latest and greatest.
At Microsoft and especially in Windows we’re excited to be at the epicenter of this digital and physical transformation, and it’s our job to help retailers not only meet the needs of their customers but find new and engaging ways for them to interact with time-starved consumers.
This week at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Annual Convention and EXPO, we are joining thousands of retailers from across the globe and showcasing customized Windows 10 experiences to support our retail partners’ unique business initiatives – whether it’s managing inventory or supporting them in their mission to reach their customers in delightful and unexpected ways.
We’re proud to be joined by the following retail partners to showcase some really cool solutions at our Microsoft booth:
Mondelēz International Inc.
Mondelēz International Inc., chances are you have enjoyed some of their products, given they are one of the world’s largest snack companies (Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, Trident gum, among others). Mondelez has built an innovative digital vending machine unlike you’ve ever seen before. Leveraging Windows 10, the 40-inch touch screen display allows consumers to interact with products in 3-D, see nutritional and ingredient information, add products to their cart and make a purchase using a variety of payment options. Interactive advertising alerts consumers about promotions and games nearby where they can win free samples. Using a Diji-touch machine – powered by Windows 10, Kinect and Azure IoT – allows operators to engage with consumers by tailoring the available product mix based on collected demographics and purchasing preference data.
Mondelēz has also created a universal Windows app that allows more efficient and proactive maintenance and support for the machines, while the Azure IoT Dashboard displays machine error notifications and the exact locations for tech support in the field. Mondelēz plans to launch 5,000 Diji-touch vending machines in the U.S. over the next 4-5 years.
Telstra, a leading telecommunications and technology company in Australia has 370 Telstra stores across Australia, selling a full range of consumer products from pre- and post-paid mobile phones to wearables, pay-TV and high speed broadband. Given more than half of the company’s service transactions now take place on digital channels, Telstra has introduced a digitally led-customer environment at its flagship Discovery stores in Sydney and Melbourne, that blends online and offline worlds, reaching far beyond the store walls so customers can interact with Telstra when, where and how they choose. This is a big change to the traditional Telstra store, which was very product centric and structured in terms of how the store team interacted with customers, and with backend systems and processes that were cumbersome and added to wait times for shoppers.
Andrew Smith, Telstra’s Director of Retail Operations, says the company went on a “rampant mission” to create a more exciting, immersive and efficient retail environment. There were just two rules: make it simple and make it fast. In other words, any change or new system had to be easy for staff to learn to use. Tasks also had to be able to be completed in less than three minutes.
Leveraging Windows 10, the Telstra stores offer a mix of highly interactive features, engaging digital content displays, and an ever-changing range of the latest products and services. A key change was the move away from traditional desktop PCs to Windows tablets, so their retail advisors can access all the systems and operational tools to complete a full customer interaction – from exploring products and services to completing the activation, payments, capturing the signature and emailing the receipt and contract – all without leaving the customer’s side. Telstra advisors also have mobile phones so that customers can get back into touch with the exact person who served them – not just whoever happens to answer the store’s fixed line.
While Andrew acknowledges that the learning process continues, the results at Telstra’s Discovery stores have been outstanding, with significant increases in sales volumes, the number of customers visiting the stores and how customers rate their experience.
Virgin Atlantic was faced with a serious challenge. They had launched a highly-differentiated business traveler experience, but how could they better demonstrate this experience to customers who’d only experienced more traditional business travel? With a very specific objective to develop a new way to help their sales team engage with valuable business customers and business travelers, Virgin Atlantic and Microsoft partnered to create ‘Ida’, an immersive digital business adventure. Ida was built as a universal Windows app, which features specially created content that takes viewers on a guided tour through a virtual Upper Class experience, from check-in to boarding — all on a compact mobile device. The Virgin Atlantic sales team takes this experience on the road to target business customers and is looking to expand to staging it in high-traffic areas during the workday, such as corporate lobby locations. You might recall Virgin Atlantic first showcased Ida at Future Decoded in November 2015.
Windows 10 Point of Sale Solution offers advances in Retail Mobility
At NRF we’re also unveiling a demo of our vision for new point of sale (POS) solution to retail partners and customers that brings together the power of Windows 10 including devices and Internet of Things (IOT). The new Windows 10 POS solution will transform traditional, stationary workstations into interactive mobile experiences.
While the concept of a mobile workstation is not new, what’s different about the Windows 10 mobile workstation is it offers a more secure and automatic log-in with Windows Hello*, unlocking the Windows device by recognizing the retail associate’s face. Throughout the day retail associates can seamlessly transition from a mobile touch-tablet mode, to a traditional desktop mode, and even project to a larger display with Continuum, which adjusts your experience to match the activity, device and display. For instance, let’s say the associate wanted to show off a new living room set that is not in the store. It’s really difficult to show that on 5” screen. The Windows 10 device can “dock” seamlessly to a larger screen so the customer can see it in greater detail. The device can also easily dock to peripheral stations to access receipt printers, EAS deactivators, flatbed scanners, scales and more. This enables retail partners to leverage one set of devices and experiences for new and engaging retail experiences, as well as accomplishing their traditional transaction workflow.
It’s really energizing to see all the unique and interesting ways our retail partners are tapping into the power Windows 10 and other Microsoft solutions. Visit our Windows For Business Retail Page to hear more about the customer and partner solutions we’re building and stay up to speed with Microsoft happenings at NRF this week on The Official Microsoft blog.
Happy New Year and Happy Shopping!
Updated January 20, 2016 12:44 pm