Microsoft Teams With Avanade, Accenture For Multichannel Solution For Retailers


Highlights of the partnership between Microsoft and the two consulting entities include a centralized Web store portal for retailers to manage their daily marketing and content management needs, as well as tools to help merchandising and marketing professionals update their Web promotions and other online content in real time -- the goal being to engage consumers with the most up-to-date information no matter what channel they use to shop.

According to Microsoft, the software will help retailers "connect the dots" in how information is transmitted through channels, helping them better target opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell and also see the movement of information through their various channels, as well as extend those capabilities to mobile devices and SMS messaging.

One feature, "Cross-Channel In-Store Pickup" allows retailers to synch up their online product catalogs with both point-of-sale catalogs and inventory so that both consumer and retailer can be aware of what's available, where and when.

"Consumers these days use two to three points of contact with a retailer to research, evaluate, purchase and even return products," said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and national sector leader for Deloitte, at an NRF keynote. Janiak cited data from Forrester Research suggesting that by 2012, nearly 49 percent of retail sales will be online or cross-channel.

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"Digital lifestyle and work style will continue to converge in today's retail industry, and, as a result, the connected consumer is increasingly in control," said Brendan O'Meara, Microsoft's managing director, worldwide retail industry. "Consumers are driven by value and convenience. Retailers need to respond by providing shopping experiences that adapt to the changes in consumer behavior -- by providing social, mobile and cross-channel shopping choices."

"When choosing with whom to do business, customers are increasingly making their choices based on convenience and consistency of experience in the store or online," added Janet Hoffman, global managing director of Accenture's retail practice. "Consumers expect their online and in-store interactions with a retailer to be a seamless experience, and this is driving the retail industry's demand for next-generation solutions that incorporate all the ways in which customers purchase from stores. We offer the Microsoft and Avanade solution as our leading e-commerce solution to retailers globally."

Microsoft also used the NRF convention to announce Windows Embedded POSReady 2009, a new version of Windows Embedded for Point of Service. Microsoft intends the operating system to allow retailers seamless connection of POS solutions with peripherals, servers and services -- everything from digital signage and service kiosks to gas pumps and cash registers.

Microsoft's POS platform, currently used by large retailers such as Macy's, accounted for 36 percent of retail and hospitality shipments in 2007, according to research from IHL Consulting Group.