A Shelfie drone scanning shelves
A Shelfie drone scanning shelves

At the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show this year, Microsoft unveiled a number of digital retail innovations based on its could platform. The New York-based event revealed how retailers are using Azure, Power BI and Dynamics 365 to change the industry.

“The hardware and software on display in our booth at NRF this week from these customers and partners are impressive — including store-scanning robots, mobile apps, intelligent vending machines and smart shelves.” said Tracy Issel, general manager, worldwide retail.

A Shelf Scanning Robot

One interesting project comes from Microsoft partner Lakeba. Shelfie is a robot that checks stores stock.

A robot or drone scans shelves, producing real-time stock reporting, sales insights, and product display tips.

The Shelfie analytics platform running on Microsoft Surface.
The Shelfie analytics platform running on Microsoft Surface.

Its data analytics run inside of Azure, letting retailers make data-driven decisions to adjust for profit and sales revenue. Meanwhile, employees will be able to focus more on helping and customers.

AI Powered Vending Machines

Another impressive implementation is by Mars Drinks. Using Azure IoT, the Cortana Intelligence Suite and Power BI, the hot drinks distributor has created a smart vending machine experience.

By combining remote sensors, the company analyzes consumer behavior to better manage stock. Predictive computing lets them consider factors such as weather, holidays and more. It also means Mars can detect best-selling products in certain locations and adjust stock to fit.

As a result, distributors won’t get fines for running out. This also has a knock-on effect for consumers, making it more likely that their favorite drink will be available.

Mobile Grocery Checkout

Speaking of serving customers, Microsoft is showcasing a solution for that, too. SKIP is a grocery checkout app that allows for line-free checkout. Shoppers can build a list at home and have them automatically organized aisle for the most efficient route.

As they go along, users scan each item and place it in their cart. When they’re done, they can check out from the app without a cashier. Naturally, the platform is built on Azure, and probably feeds all kind of information back to retailers. In return, shoppers get an optimized retail experience and more staff free to help.

The Skip app in action.
The Skip app in action.

According to Microsoft, Macey’s has been testing the tech in Salt Lake City with positive results. Guests are repeatedly using SKIP and the store has been able to provide comprehensive floor staff.

Finally, Microsoft has released an app of its own. StaffHub lets managers easily schedule shifts, and employees view them from their phone. This includes shift swapping functionality and meets security and compliance standards.

These are just a few of the personalized shopping solutions from this year. Those at NRF can see the full extent at the Microsoft booth, No.2803. You can also read up on other innovations at the Microsoft blog.