Microsoft Launches E-commerce Tools as Amazon Rivalry Intensifies

Satya Nadella speaking at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Microsoft is rolling out technology to help retailers manage their business online, its latest effort to attract customers who are in a constant battle with Amazon.

Microsoft on Monday introduced Dynamics 365 Commerce, which will let brands create detailed personalized product web pages with room for customer ratings and reviews. It integrates with other Microsoft software, so businesses can communicate with customers after they make a purchase or view charts on sales performance.

Retail is a particularly fruitful market for Microsoft as the software company’s Azure business takes on Amazon Web Services in cloud infrastructure. Big box stores like Walmart, grocery chains such as Kroger and pharmacies like Walgreens are increasingly choosing to park their cloud servers with Microsoft so as not to pour money into the pocket of their biggest competitor. AWS still has numerous retail customers, including J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Levi’s and Sainsbury’s.

Dynamics 365 Commerce is an expansion of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Retail, which focused on supply chain management, staffing and promotions. Microsoft started developing the new technology following conversations with customers about a year and a half ago, Alysa Taylor, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, told CNBC in an interview last week. It’s now available in private preview.

Marks and Spencer, which has food and clothing stores in the United Kingdom, is starting to use a separate new Microsoft service, Dynamics 365 Connected Store, which can send alerts to employees based on information gathered from sensors and cameras installed in physical stores.

Marks and Spencer has been an Azure customer for years and began using it for e-commerce operations earlier this year, said Paul Airey, the company’s head of technology for retail and digital stores. Now it’s looking to tap technology to improve the shopping experience for customers.

“It’s fair to say, as a retailer I don’t think we’re the only ones who wouldn’t be choosing AWS,” Airey said.

The Information reported in April that Microsoft was considering releasing software to help retailers with digital commerce, citing comments from a company executive who expressed “a lot of respect” for online commerce company Shopify. Shopify’s stock has climbed 130% this year. Competition could also come from Adobe, which acquired e-commerce company Magento last year for $1.68 billion.

Microsoft has previously sought to help businesses with digital commerce. In 2000, the company launched bCentral Business Web Services to bring e-commerce to small businesses along with domain names, email addresses and email.

Author: Jordan Novet

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