The retail industry is constantly evolving to offer us an even better, more effortless customer experience. We all have our personal experiences on what we think works well and where we see some room for further innovation. Innovation in retail has accelerated during the last year to solve for new challenges in managing the supply chain and the store environment itself for employees and customers alike.

 

New shopping options have become available and many of us now order even more products online including groceries. Third-party services have popped up enabling online ordering from stores that do not offer their own online shop or delivery services. Many retailers also offer a hybrid experience with curbside pickup where the consumer drives to the store but does not need to go inside while their order is safely delivered to their car. Retailers have solved the curbside pickup option differently -- some have integrated it into their mobile app where you need to enter the parking lot number after you have arrived, some rely on text message technologies and others have you call a number and tell them that you’ve arrived and where you’ve parked. There are several companies that use Microsoft technologies which are building solutions where a camera reads the license plate and lets the store automatically know when the customer arrives and where they park. We cannot wait to see that feature rolled out to our favorite stores.

 

Like in any industry, companies are in different stages of their transformation. It has become increasingly clear that companies of all sizes in the retail industry are transforming at an accelerated pace to address the current circumstances.

 

Retailers who reach out to us are often focusing on innovating to deliver an unforgettable customer experience -- enabling pick-and-go shopping, maximizing on-shelf availability, and reducing shrinkage. In most cases, the solution requires some sort of edge computing capabilities which can reduce latency, keep sensitive data in the store without sending it to the public cloud if desired, and keep the store operational even if the connectivity would be temporarily disrupted.

 

“We’re partnering with Microsoft and over 120 retail ISVs who have optimized their AI applications on NVIDIA’s edge inference platform to help retailers bring immediate value to their customers,” said Azita Martin, GM of AI for Retail at NVIDIA. “Edge AI solutions such as asset protection, store analytics, and curbside pickup provide associates with real-time recommendations in the store on Azure Stack Edge and help retailers reduce shrinkage, while providing customers with a faster and more efficient omnichannel shopping experience.”

 

One of the technologies we’d like to highlight is Vision on the Edge which enables retailers to build their own custom intelligent solutions using edge compute and cameras installed in their retail stores. For example, you can build a solution that notifies your employees when an item is out of stock or when social distancing rules are not being followed. You can view a few example solutions developed for the manufacturing industry here to assess what Vision on Edge can unlock for you.  

 

It has been a humbling experience to see the many customers who entrust their edge computing needs on Azure Stack Edge to run their workloads and get quick actionable insights right at the place where data is created using purpose-built hardware-as-a-service. It is clear with what these customers are building that market transformation for the retail industry has shifted into high gear.  The year 2021 presents a strategic window of opportunity for retailers who understand that to compete in today’s market, they must evolve and innovate with the times.

 

Feel free to reach out to your Microsoft account team to find out how we can empower your organization to achieve more.

 

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