Today’s post was written by Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada
The impact of tech intensity is a reality for every industry in Canada. Companies need to not only be fast-adopters of best-in-class technology but also build their own digital capabilities. I recently participated in STORE 2019, a conference hosted by the Retail Association of Canada. I spoke with many customers and partners about how the retail industry is experiencing a seismic shift as technology provides new ways to customize the shopping experience and as shoppers increasingly desire on-demand, personalized service. With a third of Canadian customers ending a relationship with a retailer due to insufficient personalization, companies on the front line with consumers and businesses are required to evolve to stay relevant.
Fortunately for retailers, technological innovations across cloud computing, data analytics and AI are enabling a new era, an era where it’s possible to gain ten times the insights in one-tenth the time. Retailers that embrace these technologies are well positioned to not only lead their industries, but also take share from the laggards.
Loblaw, Canada’s leading food and pharmacy retailer, is one great example of a Canadian company that is leaning into the potential of tech intensity — not an easy task for an organization that sees 1 billion visits to its thousands of grocery, pharmacy, fashion and banking locations every year. With a company purpose of “Live Life Well,” Loblaw is committed to meeting its customers’ needs and helping them live their best lives.
To help support their multi-year transformational journey, Microsoft is partnering with Loblaw as they strive to unlock new opportunities with AI, machine learning, data and the cloud.
Microsoft recently worked with Loblaw to integrate Microsoft’s AI technology within its PC Optimum loyalty program in order to match their member customers with better deals and offers based on their online preferences. By using Microsoft Azure to securely store and process data, Loblaw was able to redesign its customer data by taking apart siloed information, anonymizing, aggregating and building out a feature to customize offers at scale.
“We understood the power of what Microsoft was bringing to the market from an AI perspective,” said David Markwell, Loblaw’s Senior Vice President of Technology. “With the data already collected, but separated into different customer experiences, it made sense to move it all to the cloud and to leverage AI tools to drive results. With AI, I see this democratization of knowledge and ability to make decisions being moved out into the business units.”
Data siloes aren’t the only ones coming down. By leveraging Microsoft’s open-source cloud solutions Loblaw provided their digital teams with a familiar technology toolkit and were able to quickly upskill their employees, break down barriers between departments and build new digital skills across their teams, including a machine-learning practice. “It’s really changed the culture and how people work here,” says Jenny McConvey, Director of Decision Support. “It’s taking subject matter experts from different areas and bringing them together to work on one project.”
Loblaw has its sights set clearly on the future and Microsoft is committed to be a trusted partner to help as they continue to innovate and fulfill its longtime mission of serving customers with trust and transparency – and building a culture of innovation for its employees.
“It’s about this constant evolution, constant education, and constant looking for the next problem to solve that I find exciting,” Markwell says. “And it’s really what’s going to propel us forward.”
Learn more about how Microsoft is helping customers transform with Microsoft AI solutions.