Microsoft: The Future of Retail is Available Today

Microsoft has been setting the innovation pace for decades. The monster of Redmond, WA not only has a pipeline of genius tech on the horizon, it also has a host of technology available today that looks like it stepped right off the pages of a sci-fi novel.

In a rare treat for journalists Microsoft opened its doors to its headquarters, offering enterprise level writers and editors a two-day tour of its sprawling campus. Journalists were treated to a behind the curtain look at Microsoft's research labs, envisioning center, cyber-crime unit, and its retail experience center (REC).

The REC is a 20,000-square foot mall mock up that features a sample of the cutting edge technology the vendor currently produces. The mall is packed full of digital technology designed specifically for the retail vertical, allowing clients and visiting executives a hands-on experience.

The retail technology currently on display in the REC include:

Coffee Shop. The challenge coffee shops face is the mix of long lines with a customer base that is increasingly on the run. Sure, coffee purveyors can allow customers to order their beverages online or via a mobile device before they stop in for a quick caffeine pick me up and have their order waiting for them when they arrive. But what if the customer is delayed? You don't want that hot beverage getting colder by the minute sitting on the counter waiting to get picked up. Microsoft's uses Bluetooth technology coupled with a retailer app that alerts the barrister behind the counter that the customer has entered the store, letting the associate know it is now time to prepare the hot beverage. The Bluetooth beacon senses the customer's opted-in mobile device has come into proximity of the shop ensuring that the customer is able to enjoy a piping hot coffee without waiting on a long line to place their order.

Video Game Store. At the video game store mock up Microsoft demoed its location awareness technology. Among the cutting-edge tech displayed was a mapping solution that grants associates a bird's eye view of the sales floor in real time. Shoppers' movements and dwell time are monitored granting retailers insight into their preferences and allowing associates to interact with customers on a more personalize level.

Mass Merchant Store. All customers have had this experience: they are shopping in a big box store and have a specific product question and cannot find an associate, or the associate does not know the answer. By simply scanning the product barcode at a kiosk a teleconference with a product expert back at headquarters is initiated. Not only is the conversation instantaneous, but it is private as well. The shopper stands in a column of sound that is only audible to him/her allowing for an in-depth conversation that doesn’t distract from other customers' shopping experiences.

Cosmetics Stand. By using Kinect technology shoppers can virtually try on makeup and accessories. By leveraging the Kinect's camera the products are superimposed on the shopper's face allowing for a seamless personalized experience without the need to actually apply the products. In addition, the technology can be leveraged in digital signage to drop a purse in a shopper's hand or a hat on their head in a fun, attention grabbing display.
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