Harvey Norman first to launch Microsoft Synchronized Shopping software

Harvey Norman has become the world’s first retailer to launch a new AI-powered retail software concept the Microsoft Synchronized Shopping solution.

Microsoft says its system, accessible via the retailer’s website, “empowers consumers to make informed purchase decisions amidst the myriad of options available online and offline”.

Visitors to the Harvey Nomran website can use a customised, conversational AI-driven product advisor that asks a series of questions to identify the shopper’s needs, then recommends devices that best suits them. That might be features such as long battery life or storage capacity. 

Microsoft says 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 of the store where the specific PCs are available, they get a phone notification, and once they enter the store are guided to the exact PCs that were recommended by the online advisor,” says Microsoft in a statement. 

“This simplifies the in-store experience, eliminating the need for shoppers to spend time navigating through all the choices in the PC aisle. In addition, it provides a seamless 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).”

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page says she believes 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. Microsoft Synchronized Shopping is a major step in the right direction to help all of us live this ‘connected life’.”

Microsoft says it created the solution to address the challenge faced by consumers of an online proliferation of options and the anywhere/anytime nature of shopping via mobile devices. 

Its research showed that 80 per cent of consumers now begin their shopping journey online, and many end up delaying a purchase because they are overwhelmed by the number of choices. 

“Second, they find it difficult to choose the product that best meets their needs, without conducting extensive research, and often end up buying a less-than-satisfactory device. This ‘choice paralysis’ inspired the design of Microsoft Synchronized Shopping.”

Microsoft says its Synchronized Shopping solution is part of a broader “retail-reimagined strategy aimed at simplifying the consumer journey” by using intelligent cloud technology. 

It was developed in partnership with Microsoft Gold partner Popcornapps, and is built on Azure cloud services, progressive web-apps and geo-location based services.

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