Retail Customer Experience: Microsoft’s Retail Experience Center – It’s all about connectedness
By James Bickers, Editor, Retail Customer Experience
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a
current article from Retail Customer Experience,
a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the
Last month, I was invited
to visit the Microsoft Retail Experience Center near the company’s headquarters
in Redmond, Wash. The store itself is a faux electronics store, replete
with big-screen TVs, laptops, Xbox games and boxed software. But beneath
the surface, the emphasis on connectedness bubbles up in some unique and
Take the shopping cart,
with touchscreen integrated with the
store’s loyalty program. An interactive store map, with turn-by-turn directions,
not only delivers the shopper to the right place but builds an ever-growing
pool of behavioral data.
Most of the products
the shopper passes by in the store bear a Microsoft Tag, a technology that
Stephen Sparrow, Microsoft’s senior industry marketing manager for U.S.
retail, calls “leveraged capital” – a unique example of
an in-store technology that the customer paid for himself, the cell phone.
Giving a shopper a handheld scanner is one thing, but utilizing a device
that is already in his pocket is quite another.
Giant touchscreens dot the walls, allowing customers to browse
never-ending catalogs in a very intuitive fashion. Similarly, hands-on
experiences are served up by a Surface tabletop computer.
In each instance, the devices in the store are pulling from the same central
database, which not only insures a consistent experience, it saves the
retailer time and money – a screenshot or a product photo or a box
cover need only be scanned once, and can then be automatically resized
and repurposed for whatever touchpoint needs
At the back of the REC,
a desk bears a computer station with an RFID printer; as products come in the back door, a staffer prints a tag
for each one and applies it to the box. Boxes are walked through a pair
of reader gates, and from that moment on, the store is aware of each and
every product for sale in the house.
In the back office, the
database is mined through a data-rich but easy-to-understand
management dashboard. From a single location, a manager can see any idiosyncrasy
at the device level, and can make smart scheduling decisions. Color-coded
feeds give real-time sales data, out-of-stock alerts, camera arrays, and
even comparison charts detailing other stores in the network.
Mr. Sparrow said the
emphasis is on making the retail experience more connected.
“Disney used to
say, when you’re on a Disney cruise line, we’d better be able to recognize
you as someone who just dropped four grand on a cruise,” he said. “[We
want to] create a world where you have more transparency, where you can
deliver the right information and business insights to the right person,
in an actionable way, when they need it and where they need it.”
What do you think of Microsoft’s push into retail technology? What advantages
does its size and expertise bring? What challenges will it face against
established players? What will define its success in retail?
- Microsoft’s Retail Experience Center:
It’s all about connectedness – Retail Customer Experience – Retail
- Microsoft Retail – company website