Building the future of retail with Adobe and Dynamics 365

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Microsoft Digital technical storiesMicrosoft Store is reimagining its online storefront on with Adobe Experience Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Azure. We’re creating a more efficient content-management experience for our developers and a more effective, accessible, and intuitive interface for our customers. We’ve replaced an internally developed, custom solution with a suite of Adobe products that integrate with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce, hosted on Microsoft Azure. This strategy positions us to adapt and grow Microsoft Store’s digital storefronts to meet the changing needs of our customers and business.

Online stores and our digital transformation

As Microsoft has grown as an organization, and as the sales and marketing industry technology has evolved, our retail business has expanded too, especially at Microsoft Store on drives a large amount of our consumer and retail business and is the most common—and often the first—Microsoft retail experience for our customers. Though our strategic shift toward online sales began several years ago, this was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we plan for the future of our retail operations, our vision involves meeting customers where they are, in terms of where they want to shop, and developing greater efficiencies and agility so our business can respond to the rapidly changing state of retail business. However, this requires having the skills and technology to deliver optimal experiences at enterprise scale.

As part of our own digital transformation at Microsoft, we’ve established a marketing-technology strategy that emphasizes using our partner’s best-in-class tools and minimizing the custom tool development we perform internally. This means replacing legacy and bespoke marketing technology with the industry-leading capabilities, supplied by our strategic partnership with Adobe.

Integrating Adobe Experience Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics, running on Azure, provides us with the functionality and enterprise scale necessary to unify our business and its operations with a common set of marketing-technology solutions across Microsoft.

Improving digital storefronts

To further the digital transformation of Microsoft Store’s digital storefronts, we examined our in-place solutions to decide how we could best meet the needs of our business and our customers. We established several objectives for a reimagined solution, including that we needed to:

  • Accelerate digital transformation across our marketing technology stack. Technology solutions should grow and change with our business and keep pace with our business’s growth. Last year, aligned to supporting shifting customer needs, we announced a strategic change to our retail operations, shifting our sales and marketing approach to focus on online sales.
  • Increase platform agility. Our engineers and developers created our legacy platform, providing a custom design and comprehensive support. However, while this enabled custom-built functionality across many areas it meant we had to develop, test, and build new features for the platform with internal development resources. This resulted in considerable time spent by our developers and engineers, thereby increasing development and maintenance costs.
  • Unify storefronts with a consistent experience. Our goal is for customer experiences across all Microsoft Store digital storefronts to be consistent in branding, imagery, product descriptions, and navigation. However, we had built and grown our legacy system over the years, but often under the direction of multiple lines of businesses, each operating against a different set of rules, compliance risks, and accessibility standards. This led to varied functionality and data standards across our entire solution. We wanted our digital assets centralized, catalogued, and managed under a single interface and a set of standards.
  • Create a better onboarding experience. Efficient and connected workflows and toolsets are imperative for our employees. With our legacy platform, our team members were our experts, which isn’t ideal. If we brought in new employees, we had to train them from the ground up on the platform, which would be completely new to them, before they could start working on it. We wanted our new employees to be able to use our solutions quickly after onboarding and with minimal custom training or proprietary knowledge requirements.

Microsoft Store digital storefronts with Adobe Experience Cloud and Dynamics 365

To achieve our goals for a reimagined storefront, we’re using two powerful digital-business products. Adobe Experience Cloud provides our Microsoft Store digital storefront experience and melds seamlessly with the back-office capabilities of Dynamics 365 Commerce. Using Adobe Experience Cloud enables us to create scalable, personalized, content-led experiences, including:

  • Core content management. Adobe Experience Manager Sites is our core content-management system. It’s scalable and agile, and our content developers can leverage the same content to quickly produce and publish experiences across all channels. We can supply personalized experiences and use AI to manage and deliver relevant content and suggestions to our customers.
  • Digital-asset management. We use Adobe Experience Manager Assets to classify, catalog, and manage digital assets used across our storefront environment. Adobe Experience Manager’s complete digital asset-management functionality ensures we can automate asset tasks such as tagging and cropping, supply dynamic streaming media, and accurately build and curate our asset library.
  • Customer interaction and targeting. Adobe Target is our primary tool for AI-informed experimentation and personalization based on the entire spectrum of our customer’s interaction and preferences. This means we can improve and bolster customer experiences regularly and seamlessly.
  • Marketing campaign management. We use Adobe Campaign to deliver relevant information to our digital storefront customers, using the email channels and frequency that they indicate best suits them.
  • Analytics and reporting. Adobe Analytics enables us to capture important metrics and telemetry across the entire Microsoft Store digital-storefront environment, turning incoming data from our storefronts into actionable insights.

Adobe Experience Cloud’s extensibility was critical during our implementation. Many of our business needs and Microsoft Store digital storefront experiences required specific platform parameters and functionality. For those areas in which we require custom functionality to suit specific use cases, our developers can add integration and customization. But then we still benefit from a publicly used and commercially available platform that Adobe continually updates and supports. For example, we added custom integrations to support localization with multiple translation services. We’re also building automated workflows to reduce errors during the publication process and ensure adherence to organizational standards.

We’re using Dynamics 365 Commerce to unify our in-store, storefront, and back-office capabilities. Commerce provides a complete omnichannel solution that allows us to integrate existing in-store purchasing and shipping with our online stores. Commerce manages the bulk of our customer order-processing capabilities, including:

  • Product and service catalog management. We use Dynamics 365 Commerce to manage our entire product and services catalog for each of our Microsoft Store digital storefronts. Commerce enables us to use shared product definitions, documentation, and attributes across supply chains.
  • Order processing and fulfillment. Dynamics 365 Commerce gives our customers extensive choices for order processing and fulfillment, including delivery and in-store pickup. This integration simplifies processing and fulfillment for our retail business and creates a unified perspective for all order management.
  • Financials and payment services. We use Dynamics 365 Commerce to unify financial-reporting systems across both online and in-store retail transactions. Commerce also allows our customers to track and reuse payment methods across all retail interactions.

Launching Microsoft Store’s new digital storefronts

In April 2021, at our Singapore retail store, we launched Microsoft Store’s first digital storefront powered by Adobe Experience Cloud and Dynamics 365. We chose the Singapore location as our pilot project for several reasons. It had a wide range of features found across our stores, so it was a good representation of situations and considerations that we might experience with our other global spots. Singapore had lower traffic than many of our other stores, so we could implement the pilot on a smaller scale before expanding to larger customer bases.

The migration process for Singapore was dictated by an aggressive timeline that we needed to implement quickly and cleanly. We used the Adobe Experience Cloud content template and deployment functionality to effectively perform the migration on our live site for the Singapore store.

Building on the successful launch and positive results from our Singapore store, we shifted our focus to our online retail operation in the United States, which has a much larger traffic footprint and more complex retail scenarios. During this more complex migration, we leveraged the extensibility of Adobe Experience Cloud to streamline the migration and content-creation process, including:

  • Building a page-authoring automation tool that saved more than 6,500 hours of manual content creation needed for the migration.
  • Creating a content parser that crawled our product catalog to find missing content related to accessibility. We then fixed accessibility issues across our entire product catalog, preventing incidents in our production instance and saving hours of engineering efforts.

Key Takeaways

We successfully launched the new US storefront in August 2021 and are currently monitoring results. As we plan migration of our remaining stores, we’ll continue to refine our implementation processes and solution framework, powered by the flexible and vital partnership between Adobe Experience Cloud and Dynamics 365. We’re encouraged by our progress and the benefits we’ve experienced so far and anticipate creating new and compelling experiences for more of our customers soon.

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Tags: digital transformation, Dynamics 365, machine learning


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