Helping retailers navigate the future

Ravi Krishnaswamy Corporate Vice President, Azure Global Industry

Each new year introduces new opportunities and challenges, but 2020 was exceptional. The pandemic massively disrupted retail organizations due to ongoing shelter-in-place orders and social distancing requirements. Consumers adapted, driving nine years’ worth of e-commerce growth in 90 days.

Retailers responded by dramatically accelerating their digital transformation journeys to focus on prioritizing customer health and safety, reimagining channel retail experiences, and enabling data-driven decision making.

So, as we prepare for NRF 2021—the association’s first all-digital-event—we are reflecting on the industry’s incredible, ongoing adaptation to pandemic-driven trends and the impact in 2021 and beyond.

The unmatched performance of Microsoft Azure allows our customers to intelligently manage secure workloads across multiple sites and domains, scale those workloads to process millions of requests per second, and improve the logistics to manage each order. Azure Data and AI services help retailers respond to market forces, improve decision-making, and put customers first by breaking down their data silos to manage, merge, shape, and analyze the data and, as a result, uncover actionable insights.

With Azure, retailers get the best of at-scale cloud, data, and AI workloads including industry data models that enable data management, governance, and domain excellence in one cloud platform from a provider that does not compete with them. As a result, retailers can build better digital feedback loops—the connections between their customers, their people, their stores, their data, and the insights at the heart of each—on a platform from a trusted partner.

Take, for example, Albertsons Companies’ migration from an aging on-premises server farm to Microsoft Azure. The move enabled a modern, on-demand shopping experience for customers and sharpened the group’s competitive edge. State-of-the-art AI and cognitive services combined with an innovative developer environment helped Albertsons quickly introduce easy-to-use apps to make shopping faster and offer consumers a more personalized, streamlined experience.

To help determine which products customers want, Walgreens needed process, analyze, and report on vast amounts of store data every day. In three months, Walgreens was able to migrate its entire on-premises data warehouse for inventory management into Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics. After moving to Azure Synapse Analytics, Walgreens has dramatically improved certain aspects of operations, lowered its total cost of ownership, and modernized business processes and decision making.