Microsoft Redefines the “Connected Store” Experience with New AI Product & Acquisition

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The last time I went out to shop (this was in the pre-COVID-19 lockdown days), I couldn’t find my favorite peanut butter brand. The closest I got to finding one actually left me disappointed–

Because, the package had expired, and the label was missing! I wasted 30 minutes doing the drill.

Has this happened to you as well? Must have… It’s an ordeal everyone has to go through…

Products and shops may differ– experiences wouldn’t.

Microsoft understood the pain and took the opportunity to release a new-gen Connected Shopper platform for retailers.

Microsoft has unveiled its roadmap for the retail technology ecosystem. The latest to join the company’s growing retail experience platform is the Dynamics 365 Connected Store, which is now available in a ‘Preview’ version. Bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities straight into the real store experience, Microsoft is helping organizations maximize the potential of their observational data with a fully-integrated infrastructure of video cameras, sensors, facial recognition software, Computer vision tools and the Internet of Things. The web of IoT would provide contextual shopping experience based on triggered alerts.

So, what’s the driving force behind Microsoft’s Connected Store experience?

Last week, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Orions Systems. Orions Systems is a full-blown AI Ops platform that can put any unstructured dataset into intelligent actionable insight.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, retail commerce is one of the worst-hit markets. Despite hurdles, mobile commerce and physical store experiences are eyed as the salvage points once things start going back to normal.

In the new normal era, when every shopper is expected to follow the social distancing norms, the role of facial recognition and temperature checking devices would be a part of shopping experience. These have to be interlaced seamlessly into the regular uninterrupted store experience — a 100% contact-free, touchless checkpoint.

Microsoft has understood the role of Computer Vision and AI’s applications in taking its retail tech platform to the next level. Retailers would earn far better control of their physical store space and gain actionable insights about every shopper’s movement in that space.

Right data from the brick-and-mortar setups would empower retailers to manage costs, and maximize revenues by using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Connected Store. Using AIOps, IoT and Computer Vision could help:

  • Optimize space management
  • Improve Physical store experience through digital communication inside the store
  • Meet customer expectations during shopping activities, including looking for variations of the same product, or trying to find out the labeling details

Why Microsoft Bought an AIOps Company?

Merely having Big Data from various sources wouldn’t have made sense. The machine learning models still need to be configured, trained, deployed and utilized to use that data to make actionable industry-focused decisions based on real-time insights. Only an AIOps platform can ingest Big Data and deliver analytics for a retail player. Microsoft chose AIOps startups Orions Systems to build a hybrid, scalable network of Machine Learning solutions that keep “Human in the Loop”.

With Orions Systems, Microsoft would train its CRM and Automation products like Dynamics 365 to further refine its relevance in the retail technology ecosystem through the Dynamics 365 Connected Store. The Microsoft Power Platform would offer retailers and other organizations a way to build and train their own AI models to customize and optimize how they can learn from their physical space.

 Now, any retail setup can deploy Microsoft’s Cloud and AI for retail to build their own customized retail technology stack. Dynamics 365 Connected Store is truly fascinating.

Muhammad Alam, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Dynamics 365 said-

“Orions Systems has developed a strong reputation and leading technology for organizations seeking to gather and analyze high-value data specifically in the areas of video and image content. The acquisition will bring additional technologies that will allow solutions like Dynamics 365 Connected Store and the Microsoft Power Platform to offer retailers and other organizations a way to build and train their own AI models to customize and optimize how they can learn from their physical space. This extra set of tools will deliver on scenarios beyond what is offered out-of-the-box today and can adapt to the truly unique dimensions and needs of their physical spaces.”

With a scientific approach involving Operations Research and Supply Chain Management, retail setups can utilize the benefits of new technologies – AI, Machine Learning, Automation, Computer Vision, CRM and Marketing Technology. Going a step beyond marketing and sales touchpoints, users can further improve their overall organizational efficiency by empowering Managers, supervisors, assistants and cashiers with new-age interactive data analytics and reporting dashboards.

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