Microsoft takes competition with Amazon to new level

Microsoft is competing with Amazon – by helping retailers compete with Amazon

Microsoft is bolstering the retail value of its Azure cloud service with new Dynamics 365 digital commerce solutions. The technology titan is providing several new Dynamics 365 applications, equipped with Azure-based artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, it says will enable retailers to deliver a seamless shopping experience across store, online, mobile and social channels. Microsoft directly competes with Amazon Web Services (AWS) via its Azure cloud service offering.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store leverages in-store video cameras and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect and analyze data that becomes the source of real-time, predictive insights for store managers and employees. This includes “observational data” generated by customers moving through the store, such as traffic patterns and dwell times, as well as the status of store equipment and product.

For example, Connected Store could detect long checkout lines and notify a store manager of the need for more cashiers, monitor temperature of fresh and frozen products, or analyze how much traffic a new in-store display attracts. While Microsoft does not mention the Amazon Go cashierless store model in its blog post announcing the new Dynamics 365 solutions, Amazon Go operates on a similar platform of cameras and sensors, supported by AI and machine learning technology.

British hypermarket retailer Marks & Spencer is deploying Connected Store at its London flagship to provide real-time updates of in-store activity to associates, enabling them to provide more personalized customer service.

Meanwhile, the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce application is designed to be a comprehensive omnichannel solution that unifies back office, in-store, call center and digital experiences. Expanding upon the capabilities of the existing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail solutions, Dynamics 365 Commerce leverages AI capabilities to provide insights for advanced seamless personalization. In addition, the solution enables online retailers to build personalized pages on their e-commerce sites with customer ratings and reviews, similar to the online shopping experience provided by Amazon.

Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 retail suite also includes an AI-based virtual customer service agent solution that allows retailers to create and deploy virtual agents that engage in personalized conversations with customers, without having to write code. In addition, new AI-driven insights will allow managers to monitor performance metrics for the virtual agent.

An IoT-based Dynamics 365 supply chain management solution connects IoT signals from disparate supply chain assets with business transaction data. As a result, manufacturers and distributors can proactively manage production and stock in real-time, leverage predictive analytics to predict maintenance needs for business-critical equipment before downtime occurs, boost equipment performance and increase throughput.

Furthermore, a new Dynamics 365 fraud protection module, generally available on Oct. will feature AI technology that continuously learns and adapts to evolving fraudulent patterns, and also include a new transaction acceptance booster that addresses wrongful decline.

“This is an exciting time to be involved in the retail industry,” Alysa Taylor, corporate VP, business applications & global industry, Microsoft, said in the introductory blog post. “Shopping is no longer an isolated activity or a special destination, it’s something customers can do from anywhere, anytime. With data-driven intelligence, coupled with modern business applications, organizations can deliver personalized and differentiated shopping for their customers. We see this as a future of retail – and it is happening today.”