Navigating the Headwinds: Resilient Retail
By Shelley Bransten, Corporate Vice President of Global Retail & Consumer Goods, Microsoft
Welcome to 2023 – a new year packed with opportunities (and challenges) for all of us in the retail industry. During the past three years we’ve experienced unprecedented economic, societal, and technological change. But for all that change one thing is clear: retailers are turning to digital technology like never before. Why? Because digital is what will make the difference between retailers that thrive and those that get left behind. In fact, I don’t know where we’d be today if many of the retailers we work with had not accelerated their digital technology investments. From curbside pickup to virtual outfitting appointments, artificial intelligence-driven supply chains and more, our customers have woven digital technology into the fabric of their operations.
Not only is digital helping retailers to navigate the headwinds we’re facing today but it’s also a way to embrace the innovation that will define our tomorrow. Every retail leader I speak to is asking clear-eyed about this. It’s what we call ‘Resilient Retail.’
Empower retail’s frontline.
Take the retail frontline. Retail frontline workers account for 85 percent of the retail workforce. But they’re more stressed and stretched than ever before. Findings from the Microsoft Work Trend Index show that despite 60 percent of FLW workers being excited about the job opportunities tech creates, more than 30 percent don’t have the tools they need to perform their jobs well. “The Great Reshuffle.” “The Great Resignation.” “Quiet Quitting.” Never has it been more important to invest in retail’s frontline with the same tools, training, and resources already afforded office workers. It’s why we recently introduced Store Operations Assist, a new capability in Microsoft Cloud for Retail. It acts as a single pane of glass for all the operational day-to-day activities a store associate must carry out, driving their productivity and ultimately a better customer experience.
Elevate the shopping experience.
Experience. It remains as important as ever before. With digital, retailers can offer new experiences that truly bring the vision of omnichannel retailing to life. During the pandemic, REI launched a new virtual outfitting service to help customers assemble bikes, find the right hiking boots, and gear up for camping trips all from the comfort of their homes. Since its launch, the platform has served over 5,000 satisfied customers.
Digital is what will make the difference between retailers that thrive and those that get left behind. With digital, retailers can offer new experiences that truly bring the vision of omnichannel retailing to life.
Maximize the value of your data.
Everything we do today generates data. Tens of petabytes of data is generated every hour in retail alone. And what better way to leverage the power of retail data than building retail media networks. eMarketer predicts retail media network spend to surpass $50 billion in 2023. It’s no surprise then that more and more retailers are going all-in on it. Microsoft recently partnered with BJ’s Wholesale Club to launch BJ's Media Edge with the goal of connecting advertisers with BJ's members. BJ's Media Edge allows brands to reach members across various touchpoints and target specific segments of its 6.5 million members. With real-time analytics and closed-loop measurement capabilities, retail media networks can help brands boost customer loyalty, drive sales and growth.
This is just a snapshot of things to come in 2023. And for all the changes we continue to see across the retail industry, I remain confident in our ability to adapt and excited by the opportunity ahead.