Microsoft has created a very wide range of products and services across their many different businesses. From Kinect, to Windows, to Internet of Things, to Azure, these products have a range of uses outside their original intended use. The Kinect was developed for the Xbox and sold as a gaming accessory, but quickly the technology has been adapted for use anywhere touch free interactions could be useful. Now Microsoft has been working on developing their technologies to deliver the next generation retail experience.
Leveraging personal devices, rich sensors, machine learning, and advanced point of sale (POS) devices, a couple stores have announced plans to implement Microsoft’s technology into their retail experiences. At the National Retail Federation Annual Convention in New York City, Microsoft made announcements with GameStop, Hardee’s, TGI Fridays, Panasonic, HP and FreedomPay, and NCR on efforts to modernize shopping experiences. One perfect example is Gamestop, which is using advanced POS devices to interact with customers and their devices to facilitate and finalize sales. Shoppers at Gamestop can interact with large displays to view game trailers and content which may not normally be available.
Some companies are experimenting with tracking their customers movement throughout the store to understand trends in shopper behavior. Kinect’s advanced sensors could also predict the specific demographic of shoppers to understand who is visiting stores and what they are buying. Adding a tablet to every shopping cart would also give shoppers more tools to check prices, item location, and get relevant deals. Restaurants are also getting involved by equipping their staff with Windows 8 POS devices to make placing orders more accurate and paying for a meal faster and more secure right at the table.
All of this data may seem creepy or intrusive and it may be, but hopefully making shopping more intelligent will have overall positive benefits. When companies understand consumer demand they can plan their inventory better and reduce waste. Microsoft has been touting how their technology can help companies do more with less across a variety of industries from airlines to breweries. Less wasted inventory means the same customer satisfaction with less labor and material costs. Companies becoming more efficient is the next step toward making their investors more money. Hopefully these improvements do lead to less wasting and more happy customers.