The brand new solution aims to allow shoppers to make informed purchase decisions using online and offline options.
Microsoft Synchronized Shopping is part of Microsoft's broader retail reimagined strategy, which promises to simplify the consumer journey by leveraging intelligent cloud technology.
"Enabling great customer experiences is at the heart of our retail reimagined initiative, and this new intelligent edge solution is designed to break customer choice paralysis by providing a seamless online and in-store experience," said Ami Silverman, corporate vice president, worldwide sales, consumer & device sales division, Microsoft.
Harvey Norman sees the new solution helping retailers “connect” with connected customers.
"Customers must be able to make decisions holistically, especially in a digitally connected world. This has always guided how we curate our assortment of offerings, and it now shapes how we look at connecting online and offline channels seamlessly for our customers. Synchronized Shopping is a major step in the right direction to help all of us live this 'connected life.' I am excited to see the results of this pilot run, and we will continue to improve on and expand this experience." said Katie Page, chief executive officer of Harvey Norman.
More importantly, Microsoft Synchronized Shopping provides shoppers options that are not limited to being offline or online.
According to the announcement, the online proliferation of options and the anywhere/anytime nature of shopping via mobile devices are two issues that plague the customer journey for consumer electronic purchasers today.
First, shoppers (80% of whom start their journey online, according to a 2018 PwC Report) end up delaying or even postponing a purchase because they are overwhelmed by the number of choices. Second, they find it challenging to choose the product that best meets their needs, without conducting extensive research, and often end up buying a less-than-satisfactory device.
Microsoft Synchronized Shopping was developed with these issues in mind. Shoppers can use a customized conversational AI-driven product advisor, on the Harvey Norman website, that asks a series of questions to identify their needs, then recommends devices that best meet those specific needs such as long battery life or storage capacity. Product advisor results reflect devices that are on display in Harvey Norman, where customers can go to try them out.
The immersive and engaging experience starts when the shortlisted device(s) on the website creates a shopper pass on the mobile device with embedded geo-location services. When shoppers are in proximity to the store where the specific PCs are available, they get a phone notification. Once they enter the store, they are guided to the exact PCs that were recommended by the online advisor.
The approach simplifies the in-store experience, eliminating the need for shoppers to spend time navigating through all the choices in the PC aisle. Also, it provides a continuous online-offline purchase journey tailored to their needs, which is highly secure (and with no footprint of the user on any of the interacting devices).
Microsoft Synchronized Shopping was developed in partnership with Microsoft Gold partner Popcornapps. It is built on highly scalable Azure cloud services, progressive web-apps (PWA), and geolocation-based services. The PWA is designed to work with multiple form factors across iOS and Android devices and interacts with the devices in-store using a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) application.