Skip to main content

Tech Bytes: Three Ways Microsoft is Enhancing Customer Engagement


My latest retail IT-related travels took me to the Retail Experience Center at Microsoft headquarters (in Redmond, Washington), where I toured a simulated shopping mall environment that demonstrated a variety of innovative ways the company is using technology to enhance customer engagement for retailers. Here are the three most interesting solutions from that visit:

A Beacon for Coffee Drinkers

It is generally understood that retailers can use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-powered beacons to better understand the presence of the shopper in the store. However, beacons can also serve as a foundation for improved omnichannel ordering.

Using a replica coffee shop, Microsoft demonstrated how based on underlying Microsoft technology, a customer can place an advance mobile order at any time. Once the customer is in close proximity to the store, beacons recognize them and work with their phone to push the order to the barista. Thus the order is prepared the exact amount of time in advance to allow food and beverages to be not only ready for pickup when the customer arrives, but still hot.

Right Answer, Right Time

Obtaining extra instructions or information on a product in a store is a challenging proposition for everyone involved. For the customer, it means waiting for a store associate to become available, and then hoping they have the sought-after knowledge. For the retailer, it means investing in additional training and staffing, straining an already tight labor budget.

Microsoft offers a technical answer to solve this problem in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Leveraging a solution based on Skype for Business, retailers can allow customers to scan the barcode of a product at a kiosk to bring up a detailed information page. If they need more details or simply wish to speak to someone, skill-based call routing will direct their inquiry to a remote expert on that product for an immediate live Skype chat session.

Retailers can also use expert Skype sessions to augment inquiries made online or via call center. And Skype offers capabilities such as instant language translation and voice/text translation to make meeting the customer service needs of global and disabled customers much easier.

A Sight to Behold

As demonstrated by Microsoft, signals from beacons allow retailers to gain instant visual insight into store activity.

“You can see the store at a glance with beacons,” explained Marty Ramos, CTO retail, consumer products and services, Microsoft. “It’s a visual representation where you can see things like synergy between items and dwell times.”

Retailers can use beacons to do more than track the basic movements of anonymous shoppers through their smartphones. For customers who have opted in to be identified, retailers can tie visual information on their activities in the store to previous purchase history and online behavior. This enables better real-time promotions and offers, as well as a generally improved omnichannel customer experience.

“The customer carries their own kiosk that you don’t have to pay for,” stated Ramos.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds