Azure for Executives

Achieving Scale and Growth with Ecommerce in the COVID Era

Episode Summary

In our first panel episode, Microsoft partners discuss effective digital experiences that are driving ecommerce systems and the supply chain. We hear from our panel of thought leaders about how retailers are successfully acting with agility, especially in the coming holiday season.

Episode Notes

In our first panel episode, Sahir Anand hosts Microsoft partners to discuss effective digital experiences that are driving ecommerce systems and the supply chain. We hear from our panel of thought leaders about how retailers are successfully acting with agility, especially in the coming holiday season.

In addition, the conversation covers how Azure Cognitive Services and AI are playing a larger role in delivering personal experiences to customers. Customer behaviors are changing rapidly in this time of COVID-19 and the panel discusses how to best create the customer’s journey to make their experiences most effective.

Further, panelists share success stories about their customers who have successfully navigated this new normal of retail experiences. Finally, panelists discuss their partnerships with Microsoft and how they have benefited their customers with rapid innovation.

Show Transcript


Justin Anovick - Chief Product Officer at Episerver

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JoAnn Martin - VP Industry Strategy and Market Development at Blue Yonder

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Anjali Yakkundi - Product Marketing & Product Strategy Leader at Aprimo

Follow Anjali on LinkedIn and Twitter

Tal Rotman - VP Global Partnerships and Alliances at Namogoo

Follow Tal on LinkedIn


Sahir Anand is the Principal Industry Lead for Microsoft Azure Cloud+AI in Retail & CPG. Follow Sahir on Linked in.

David Starr is a Principal Azure Solutions Architect in the Industry Experiences Team at Microsoft. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Episode Transcription

Welcome to the Azure for Industry podcast. We're your hosts, David Starr and Paul Maher. In this podcast, you hear from thought leaders across various industries, discussing technology trends and innovation. Sharing how Azure is helping transform business. You'll also hear directly from Microsoft thought leaders on how our products and services, are meeting industry's continually evolving needs.

Hello listeners. This is David Starr, and this is a slight departure from our standard format. And that is that today's show is a panel discussion among industry thought leaders for retail. And moderating today's session is Sahir Anand. Sahir is Principal, Industry Lead for Retail & CPG at Microsoft. In his almost 20 year career, Sahir has focused on building experience and expertise within retail and consumer goods industries, and now works within the cloud and AI industry experiences team at Microsoft. And with that, I'll turn it over to Sahir who will be moderating today's discussion.

Thank you, David Starr for your introduction. Good afternoon everyone and good evening if you're in back or earlier in the day on the Pacific Coast, but I have a great panel today that I'd like to first introduce them. So I'm going to start with all the different folks who can give us your background, just a quick background and then we can get right into it. Ladies first, so I'll start with JoAnn Martin, if you would like to introduce herself.

Absolutely, nice to meet everybody. I'm Joanne Martin. I am the vice president of Industry Strategy and Market Development for Blue Yonder, a supply chain leading platform company. I have a rich background in retail. I spent 22 years leading planning and allocation and analytical teams throughout the industry.

Wonderful, welcome JoAnn.

Thank you.


Thanks so much for having me today. It's great to be here Anjali Yakkundi. I lead our product marketing function here at APrimo. APrimo is a content operation solution and I'm really thrilled. We work with a lot of retailers and other consumer industries. And before that, I have a rich history working with retailers where I covered eCommerce and retail trends for almost eight years at Forrester Research. So thank you so much for having me.

Thank you Anjali. And it's something common between your background and my background. I also used to work in the Endless world. So something in common there. Justin.

Yeah. Hello Justin. Episerver, [inaudible 00:02:53]we provide digital experience platform, lots of buzzwords, but it's really eCommerce, personalization, analytics solution. And my background, I actually was working in retail in the late 90's and set up a website for that retail store. It was a sport's medicine store, got funding, was worth like billions of dollars on paper and then the dot-com bubble happened. And I wasn't. So I came back around to Episerver, about four and a half years ago because I wanted to get back into the retail commerce space.

That's great Justin, great story there. Thank you and welcome. And last but not least is Tal.

Hi everyone, Tal Rotman, based out of lovely Boston, Massachusetts, I run partnerships and business development for Namagoo. We are an online and eCommerce retail technology company, much like Justin's organization. We deal with companies eCommerce and digital teams with our solutions. My background is both technology, security and consulting.

That's wonderful and fellow Bostonian. Welcome to you. And of course, what we have as a topic today, hopefully is a very engaging topic which cannot be ignored by the retail or our folks on the brand side of the house, which is really about how do you achieve scale and growth in eCommerce in today's times. Especially when you think about how there is a tale of two retails, almost co-existing, and you're talking high triple digit growth for eCommerce companies never seen before. You're talking about the highest valuation for some of the companies in the stock market that are eCommerce related. It's just phenomenal, the type of changes we've seen. And on the other end of the spectrum in the tale of two retails, we see retailers struggling to stay afloat. And even though we hope that the not only stay afloat, but they are successful. Today, we want to bring in the right thought leaders on this forum as part of the state of commerce podcast, Azure podcast.

And we want to talk about how do retailers ensure success and scale in the COVID era, because this is the reality in the new normal we're living in. So I'm going to start, my, my first question will go to Justin. Justin, I'm going to start with you since you've got the perspective from Episerver eCommerce customer experience and you bring in the types of solutions that companies care about today, all of you do. And so I would love to understand from your perspective, what do you think is the top burning issue or top trend in retail and CPG today?

What we see actually is, if you go to listen to what Jeff Bezos says, right? They include experimentation and everything. And experimentation, AB testing, if you go down to a simplicity, has been around for a while, but really experimenting on what your customers are looking for, with not only the images or the titles, but pricing and all those variations to help drive the adoption. That's really being bubbled up as one of the most important trends that we're seeing in the market. Which is one of the reasons that we actually just announced the intent to acquire optimizely as a part of this, because we see our customers really wanting to take that next step into creating those effective digital experiences. And you really can only do that in this realm when it comes to experimentation.

That's great, Justin and thanks for that opening round. And then try to bring in JoAnn because, if you think about Blue Yonder, what's really interesting about Blue Yonder is the AI based open supply chain platform, innovation, which is interesting, not only from the importance of supply chain, planning and execution, but also a very important concept in our times today. Not only because of contact less shopping, but also because of cope side pickup, which is flexible fulfillment and flexible and intelligent logistics. So, JoAnn, what do you think is the burning issue? What's top of mind, what's keeping retailers up at night.

I think it's having the ability to move at a speed that is abnormal, even at the pace that retail typically used to running. For instance, the shift to online dramatically stresses a lot of the operations, the workforce, and historical things that they've looked at. Many of retailers have always looked at a tops down approach and then bubbled up from a bottoms up. But now with the influx point of data and all of the customer data. It's really about getting what the customer wants, where they want it and how they want it. And our behavior has changed in how they're interacting with retailers, not just by channel, but by product preference or by attribute or changing based off of discretionary spending and ability to buy. So what we see a lot of retailers doing is really focusing, laser focusing on the customer and leveraging and harnessing the data that they're able to use.

So when you think about Blue Yonder and our ability to manage on a platform, just like Microsoft's ability to bring in data, that's what we're looking for from a partner ecosystem to really be able to define who that customer is, what that customer wants to purchase, and then be able to expose it in a manner in which is indicative of a buy or a conversion point. And that has become a really important thing for speed and agility. Real-time, everything is the price of admission. The customer wants to understand when their product is being delivered, where it's being delivered and defining networks that can deliver on that final mile. Promise is really a big focus of retailers today.

That's great. JoAnn, I like real time, everything is the price of admission. How true is that? And then let me turn to Tal Rotman from Namagoo. I know that you care a lot and your customers care a lot about secure customer experience. So Tal, help us understand what are your customers telling you in terms of the hot burning issue today? What's keeping the retail execs up at night?

Well, I think that as JoAnn mentioned, with the move to focusing on the eCommerce and online experience of customers. What we're hearing from the digital teams and the eCommerce teams, is that they're even more focused on the customer's journey. And ensuring that, that experience is as frictionless as possible, that the experience that they're having is a positive one. And interestingly, in preparation for this call, we gathered some interesting insights from some of our customers and there was a lot of positive feedback with regards to an online and catalog retailer out of the New York area who gave us really interesting feedback about ensuring that things that to us, now make sense with having been through the COVID period for actually more than half a year.

Things like ensuring that the filters when they look at products are, they give the option to look at in-stock items, right? And be able to filter out-stock items that are out of stock. Being very transparent with whether there's delivery delays or shipping delays at the get-go, at the top of funnel being very transparent about that. And even thinking about how to feature items that are suited for the current new normal, it feels to us probably today as a given. But a lot of retailers had to go through this transition of ensuring that customers felt like they were, their experience was paramount.

Interestingly a specialty retailer, Big and Tall Apparel was talking to us about a curbside pickup, which I mean, all of us, take that for granted after only a number of months at this point, curbside pickup is a basic feature of any online offering. But many companies were thinking about it and COVID, and the new normal forced them to bring that future forward. And what's interesting is, they've realized the positive impact and it's actually informed a lot of their decision-making with regards to where they're going to invest their efforts.

I think it's fascinating that new eCommerce, you can give customers exactly the type of product created, not only content, but actual products from the merchandise set. It's also the fact by understanding the in-depth analytics of how the experience, the eCommerce engine. But it's also the fact that you talked about transparency around fulfillment and other sides of the eCommerce engine is very, very important. So all good points. Thank you Tal. Anjali, I think it goes to say that your platform, when it comes to marketing digital asset management is a key part of this whole retail commerce equation. What are your thoughts? What's keeping retailers up at night, what is that one trend that you believe is shaping retail and consumer goods in terms of the upheaval today?

Yeah, absolutely. I think like whatever, Anovick said makes so much sense to me. COVID has put unbelievable pressure on retailers today to completely transform every aspect of their business. I think you've heard from kind of the experiences that you're putting out in the market, how you're delivering eCommerce, the performance, the fulfillment, the shipping curbside, the business model has changed. For us, I talked to mostly marketers, right? And so these are the marketing teams that are trying to get out. And for them, everything has changed. Literally, I have customers of ours who have told me that overnight their business model has changed. One of our retail customers in the home improvement and furniture side, had to completely re-think what they are selling and what they're promoting, because suddenly overnight it felt like everyone's going to buy office furniture, right?

Everybody's so that they can spend time in their backyard. So at least for the marketing side, the customers that we speak to and the marketing leaders in retail, they've had to shift how they go to market and what their messaging is and what products are they launching and promoting. Literally, within the span of two or three days, they've had to start shifting everything that they're doing. And so what I'm seeing, in terms of this huge is it's placed more focus on this ability for marketers to work with agility. So that content, it can't take, you can't spend five months working on our back to school campaign, because we don't know if we're going to go back to school, right? We don't know what Christmas is going to look like. What is black Friday going to look like? So that we'll complete marketing, planning, kind of content we're putting out. It needs to be more agile and we need to completely shift, not just our tone, but the way we get that out into market.

I'll second that, Anjali sorry to hear, but we've heard that same thing. What used to take us 12 weeks or we had 12 weeks to do, we had to do in a week, right? Like when the first couple of months of the pandemic and people were kind of scurrying and trying to figure it like that was the common theme and it hasn't gone away from what we've seen. I mean, it's like a 12 to one ratio literally of how agile you need to be. So I'll absolutely second that one,

We sell a lot to retailers, but we sell to other organizations too. And retail has historically, has not really wanted to move with as much agility, at least on the marketing side. You know, we have Christmas, Christmas doesn't move, back to school doesn't move. And now I think there's this realization, well, actually these things can move or they can look a lot different, but COVID has really changed retailers outlook here.

I think they pointed on the Anjali's comment, which I really liked, which is, who knows how the holiday season and back to school is going to be like this year, it's just a whole new world, right? And so eCommerce, and retail has to respond to this reality that we're facing today. So, it's best one when you think about us reaching out for retailers to really understand their deep pain points and around their businesses. So on that note, I wanted to ask you in our retail journey, both in retail and CPG, and we've done some really interesting joint customer wins, we've had some cool development opportunities when it comes to your platforms or be it dynamics, powerBI, or any of our other platforms like we should, we've done around teams and other collaborative models, whether it's office, what have you.

The point I'd like for all of us to think about. And I'd like to have Justin comment on this first and then I'll go round Rotman again, is the point around the fact that if you can point out to one customer story that you're proud of with Microsoft, which one would that be? Justin and then I have a kind of follow on question, but I'd let you answer the first, first part.

Sure, so again in the COVID scenario like middle to end of March, we had a customer who is based in Scandinavia and they needed to actually work with the government in order to launch a new service. And it was to sell groceries online. And this customer had never done that before, and they had two weeks to do it. And so, because of the way we were able to provision our application, we worked with you guys stood up an environment in this Scandinavian country and within like, I think it was 36 hours and they were deployed right away. And they went live within two weeks. Now, what was interesting is that certainly the combination of capabilities of being able to provision to Azure, the abilities our application to accommodate those things, the ease of integration and all that stuff.

But we worked very closely with your team to make sure that all of it functioned exceptionally well, because this was in the peak of what you guys were seeing 700% increase in Azure usage or something like that. And so it was a great story, not just between us, but certainly showcasing the ability to get our product up and running very quickly for such a critical service at that point.

I love that example, two weeks, wow. That is pretty agile. JoAnn any stories that come to mind for you?

Yeah, of course we partner with Microsoft a lot on the supply chain side, but one of the customer stories, I think we're most proud of is that we delivered together at Marks and Spencer's. Together with Microsoft, we were helping Marks and Spencer's equip all of their stores staffs with MS teams on their mobiles, which enabled them to run the Blue Yonder workforce application and schedule their shifts. They were able to swap shifts in real time, and this allowed the store associates to have the benefit of a unified experience across teams and our applications. And not only did it help the store associates, but it really broke down the barriers that we see between corporate and store organizations, because it allowed through the teams' application the leadership to also have a breakdown in their silos between headquarters and everyone became more connected from the CEO to the store associates. So this innovation was jointly designed between Microsoft and Blue Yonder and we were really excited to be able to deliver it to Mark and Spencer.

What a story. Don't you love Mark and Spencer, I persist still, as a kid growing up. I first visited Marks and Spencer, I've never forgotten the whole concept of the department store, food and everything else or all in one box, right?


So I'm sure you were proud of this customer story and what brand. Thank you for sharing that. Let me ask Tal, do you have stories that you'd like to share. You and I have shared a lot in terms of what the Namangoo and Microsoft have done, and I'm sure that it's something you're proud of.

Absolutely, actually, I also have a place in my heart for Marks and Spencer's. I'm going to talk about, is a direct to consumer brand actually in Crocs. And the collaboration with Microsoft was great there. Namangoo solution around customer journey. Hijacking is one which is very innovative and new to market. And leveraging Microsoft, both Azure to store databases, as well as the ML platform, Namangoo was able to bring innovative solution, which helps clean the customer experience and the journey online for Crocs visitors who are actually coming to their website. And Crocs has seen an incredible spike in traffic during the COVID period. And yet what they really were finding was that a good portion of visitors to their websites were experiencing ads and other negative experiences during the customer journey relating to this phenomena of journey hijacking. Preventing this experience and cleaning the customer journey, represented a very significant positive impact on the end results, top line revenue, as well as journey metrics or customer experience metrics. And we're very proud of that collaboration and actually working together with Microsoft on some other exciting stuff with them.

Wonderful and then Anjali, I know that we've got a lot of partners and actually we've got in this group, we've got partner to partner type of stories as well. So feel free to share some customer story with us, which will enlighten the folks listening to this podcast, but also folks within Microsoft, folks within your organization, and also the folks who might be listening from the companies represented on today's podcast. We'd love to hear from you.

Yeah, absolutely. So, I know we work with Episerver, Justin's organization. Energy between the two organizations where we focus more on the content operations and they really focus on the eCommerce and the experience delivery and personalization. One of the things that we've been able to do with one of our customers headquartered in Europe is, they've been really affected by COVID and had to change their marketing message quite a bit. And what we were able to do really similar to what you heard from Justin's story is we were able to get up and running with one of our customers. They called it their accelerated dam project. They're able to get up and running and just a couple of weeks because of the agility and time to market that you get as a SaaS solution on Azure cloud, we're able to get up and running with them and just a couple of weeks. But what's really exciting to me about that accelerated dam or accelerated digital asset management that they did, is they were able to create a home for all their COVID-19 assets, for use on any channel, whether I'm an eCommerce or digital channel.

They also have a B2B component of their business, where the B2B side of their business, they were also able to get this for other channels, like print and other sort of traditional media channels as well. So they're able to get every COVID asset, guidance on how they're supposed to message and go to market. Everything was all up and live in a very, very short amount of time. Very quickly proving to be a quick single source of truth for all COVID-19 marketing materials to get to market. And so, this is a really great value proposition because we're able to help with that sort of content, operations, the asset management and then we look into platforms who are really focused on, okay, once that content is there, how can you then start to deliver it quickly in a personalized manner with experimentation to all of your different digital channels?

That's great, Anjali. Thank you.

And now let's take a moment out to listen to this very important message.

Did you know the Microsoft commercial marketplace allows you to find and purchase leading Microsoft certified solutions from Microsoft partners? The Microsoft commercial marketplace includes Microsoft AppSource and Azure marketplace. Each storefront serves unique customer requirements and different target audiences. So publishers can ensure solutions that are available to the right customers. For applications that integrate with Microsoft 365 products visit Get solutions tailored to your industry that work with the products you already use. For B2B as your base solutions, visit here you can discover, trying to play [inaudible 00:25:06]the cloud software solutions you've want.

Partners make more possible. And obviously I want to talk about partnership with you. Microsoft's partnership with you. We definitely want to talk about it for a few more minutes, and then I want to turn towards your individual contributions to the retail and CPG industry and the type of capabilities you're enabling your customers in terms of not just digital empowerment, but also moving to the next phase of being mobile first and cloud first. My next discussion point is all around our CEO, setting our dealers vision around being digital transformation, being the figure of speech. But it's more important when you think about digital transformation from the notion of being cloud first and mobile first, and that's the journey that a lot of our customers on right now along with the partners that we work with. And so at the forefront of all of that vision that our CEO laid out and what Microsoft is trying to do with wonderful partners, such as yourself, is to really take our customers through that progressive journey in the cloud.

And as we see in the cloud, we talk about cloud based eCommerce or B2B eCommerce, right? And in order to realize both those missions, we have the Azure piece, and then we've got the Azure marketplace. What has your experience been with Azure as a cloud platform and Azure marketplace, where some of you are already transacting your applications with our customers or with our joint customers. So I'd like to start first with Justin. Justin, any thoughts on Azure and the Azure marketplace? I know that Episerver is not just using Azure, but you're also transacting on the marketplace, which is pretty phenomenal. Any thoughts on your experience this far?

Yeah, well, certainly the overall Azure piece, I mean, when we talk about Azure, everything from auto-scaling to app insights and everything else that's included in that from a foundational perspective. But on the marketplace, not to continually talk about COVID, but it helped change the way we think about how we offer our solutions to our customers. We came out with a solution that allows you to understand the content on your site and to understand the topics that are needed, all the way through which he should create and all of that. So we have that on the Azure marketplace to help ensure customers can take advantage of that and get up and running very quickly. And that whole process, the new iteration of the marketplace has been very easy to use. And it certainly helps streamline our process.

That's great Justin. JoAnn and I wanted you to comment, I know that you're an avid Azure user, but you're also developing, just spoke to your team the other day. You're developing your application to be able to transact via the Azure marketplace. What is your company's experience been with Azure and the Azure marketplace this far?

24 months ago, we made an all in decision with Microsoft cloud and we've really not looked back since then. We have since moved our entire portfolio and have been modernizing on Azure, as well as all of our new innovations across planning, execution and retail store solutions are being powered on Azure. And our entire supply chain strategy is now being powered by Azure. So we have really invested within the platform and it has become our platform as well as that is the place where we are leveraging Microsoft and something that we're really proud of.

Wonderful. I love what you said and that this has become our platform. It's partners like yourself that make more possible. So thank you. And Tal, I know that you had some really interesting stories that you and I have been sharing lately about the Azure marketplace and Azure in general, would love to hear your quotes.

Absolutely to hear, so we're relatively focused on Azure because we are a SaaS based solution. So this, we natively speak cloud as a company and so our familiarity and leveraging Azure itself, but also the complimentary solutions around big data machine learning, go to market very, very quickly, be very rapid in our ability to change and adapt to market circumstances. As well as the simplest things like performance and efficiency, that being said, we've also leveraged the Azure marketplace very recently, which has been a tremendous experience and is going to enable our customers to very rapidly deploy our solution so that it is as low touch and effort as possible, which certainly is one of the key value propositions of a SaaS based solution.So it's really been helpful for us in achieving our goals and bringing this value to the retail and eCommerce segment most recently.

Thank you, Tal. And the next round of question, Anjali feel free to comment about Azure. In the next round Rotman I'm going to have you start this time. I do want to talk about ROI and reducing total cost of ownerships. These are tough times, right? You've highlighted that a number of us have talked about [inaudible 00:30:27] Inhibitor in these exciting customer experience times that we are seeing in the eCommerce world. Companies are getting limited by their options. So talk to us a little bit about how is your organization helping customers find the ROI and reduce their total cost of ownership as it relates to your solutions.

Yeah, absolutely. So I think we do this in two ways, on the business side and on the technology side. From the business side, which I think is the most interesting side, we're seeing retailers under enormous pressure. We have one retail customer who had to furlough a significant number of their marketing team. Yet at the same time, we see that retailers have this unprecedented power. They have to go faster. Their marketing message has to change at the drop of a hat, they're promoting different products. They might stop certain products, but launch others with very limited resources as their time to cut back or shift priority. So for us, from a business point of view, we really aim to help increase that ROI by doing what I like to call, unleashing the power of content. Unleash the power of what they already have so that they can streamline their work. They can streamline all those that they might not want to do every day. Planning or sitting and thinking about my budget, or who's going to work on what that can all be automated. They don't have to worry about those things so that they can think about the bigger problems that they have to solve. Like, how am I going to get this launch off in two days with very limited resources.

So we think, from our point of view, we're trying to help marketers at retail organizations, really assert to automate a lot of their processes so they can increase the ROI and elevate the status of marketing within retail organizations. We use Azure in a lot of ways to help with that, especially the cognitive services and AI. That has helped us go to customers and eliminate a lot of that rope work, that boring work, that marketers have to do, use AI for that, so marketers can get back to focusing on what really matters, which is getting those, that content and customer experience out faster.

So that's really where we're seeing from a technology point of view. Certainly we see a lot of ROI and reduced cost of ownership as a SaaS solution, releasing automatically. We release every one to three weeks, that is, is all made possible by being at a SaaS solution built on Azure. So that you don't have to focus on long costly upgrades. You can really focus on your business challenges and really quickly get ROI back.

Wonderful. I know that JoAnn, you mentioned some really nice customer stories. Talk to us a little bit about how can retailers reduce and customers working with Blue Yonder, reduce their total cost of ownership and increase the ROI in these tough times.

Sure. What we're seeing is a move towards microservices, and that's a heavy focus of what retailers are doing to augment, to move at speed in SaaS applications. So for instance, there're opportunities such as our recent acquisition of Yantrix the eCommerce side that provides inventory, visibility to customers to be able to understand real time visibility to when they can pick up their product or availability. And it's helping a lot of the retailers be able to understand when and where they can pick up the product. And it's also helping to drive reductions in cart abandonment and higher loyalty.

So what we're seeing is that what retailers want is quick time to value, and they're not looking for 18 to 24 months deployment. So really picking spots within your supply chain has been an area where retailers are focused. So, places where you see touch points with the customer. So whether it be from a fulfillment standpoint and how do you automate to a micro fulfillment within grocers to help the surge and the finer mile, how do you manage a more predictive forecasting and replenishment to be able to enable in stocks on your shelves at a more rapid rate, knowing historic models are to fall down in times like this of unpredictability. So those are just some of the examples that we're seeing.

Wonderful, JoAnn, I want to ask Justin, and then we'll go to Tal right after. But Justin, I know that from Episerver has had a footprint in many different countries as you're working with, with retailers. Help us understand what is in it for your customers when it comes to finding that ROI with you and also a lower DCO

For us, it really comes down to, and I know everybody talks about this, but everybody's competing with Alibaba and all of those, right? So the decision has to be, are we going to go after the pure transactional model, or are we going to emphasize our brand? Are we going to do a combination and go to the marketplace? We certainly see that decision has being key. And if you go to the pure transactional model, then you're probably competing on price and it's about volume. If you're competing on your brand, then it's about telling the story and all of that. So we really focus on, for the most part the organizations that focus on their brand, that want to tell their story, that helped drive a repeatable customer experiences to come back and really be involved in that whole brand story.

So from an ROI perspective, our customers really focus on repeat purchases and lifetime customer value, as opposed to purely just AOV. So, we help them with the tools and the approach along with our design partners to implement that type of site. And certainly from a total cost of ownership, we help customers with their roadmap, right? So why go in and offer them everything in our entire suite, for instance, when it might take a little while for them to work on the roadmap. So total cost of ownership and deploying and offering the right things become really important in that whole discussion when it comes to ROI and TCO.

Wonderful. Justin, thank you for laying that out for us and for our audience today. Tal, I know that you're no stranger to the stipel conversations around finding why and customers often talking about ways to reduce TCO. So any thoughts on these points?

Absolutely. So from the previous comments, the focus on TCO is so significant. Again, I don't want to harp on the topic of COVID, but we know that the challenges that many companies are faced with, makes it very difficult for them to make large scale investments these days. And so, focus on, no touch, low touch type of solution which drives a revenue with significant ROI is certainly where we've our focus. Beyond preventing journey hijacking as a customer experience and brand protection value to customers. We are highly focused on ensuring that the revenue lift associated with that, is clearly delineated.

And so the ROI is a very strong approach. When we build our propositions with our customers, the baseline of such engagement is ensuring that we are able to achieve a very significant ROI. And if we can, move the needle in that way for our customers, with that low TCO, we completely understand that this is something that doesn't make sense for them, right here and now. That's the key messaging when we speak to customers, but once we've deployed that solution, we've recently really tried to work together with our customers, with the eCommerce, with the marketing team, to try to identify new opportunities.

Most recently, one thing I'm very proud of in terms of building out capabilities, that we've actually identified key segments of visitors to websites who are highly converting, who are converting at something like two to three times the baseline ratio. And if we're able to identify that key segment and run personalization campaigns that aren't intrusive, but that are designed to integrate to other solutions that are running those types of personalization are not intrusive, but are actually providing an additional to our eCommerce customers. That's a real win for us, not something that we're monetizing, but we're really trying to help the eCommerce retailers, both of those who are, like you said, both sides of the story, right? Those who are very successful at the moment, and those who are challenged and we're trying to help those are both striving and also those who are successful.

And that's really where our roadmap is aimed towards. We are looking at additional solutions that we can bring to bear for our customer base, which will continuously increase ROI by finding additional ways to optimize whether it's through improving the incentive experience or other forms of validating and clearing the path to purchase. We want to support our customers with a low TCO offering that is always bottom line oriented.

Wonderful. Thank you Tal for that, a candid answer. Now, in the spirit of being a candid, I know that our Azure podcast audience globally really appreciate candidness from our panelists. The esteemed panelists that we have on the call today are certainly would like to count for that. So in that win my final question to you, and this I'd like for you to be as frank as possible. And this is a product question. So I know all of you care a lot about product, as much as you care about messaging and the marketing side of technology.

But when it comes to product, which is that one capability that you would like for retailers that should be on the immediate investment list, so to say. And it should be on the roadmap. But if you think about, if they had a bucket of money and they had to put that towards an investment right away, it should be absolutely on the top of the list. So very candid, very quick response. This is a rapid round. I'll start with again, ladies first, JoAnn.

I think the most important thing given the unpredictability of the market for retailers is really if you needed to invest, I would invest heavily in AI and ML forecasting and replenishment applications. Being able to predict where your customer's going to be is going to be critical and historical is not going to be indicative to help you be able to place that product closer to the customer.

Wonderful. I will move to Anjali.

I have to second, AI and ML, no matter the application, whatever it is for, your personalization, customer experience or kind of operations and automating process or fulfillment, I think however much we can do so that you can focus whatever part of the retail organization on. Focus your people on doing higher value work. So I would say AI as well.

Great, Justin how about yourself?

When you said that you wanted us to be frank, but if it's okay, I'll be Justin. So I got all the dad jokes today. So, for us, so cliche, but being customer centric is about driving the right experiences, not just what the customers want, but what they're expecting. And I know I mentioned this on the outset, but the need for experimentation and personalization, I think AI is important part of everything that everybody's doing and really what that means is to take some of the guesswork out of it to simplify it. But certainly from a retailer perspective, going back to what I said earlier, pure product wise, it really does come down to experimentation A/B testing. Like you really need to figure out what works and what works for one customer set that may not work for another, and constantly reviewing that and understanding it and looking at the analytics and those result from that will help drive to an outcome based culture for these marketing merchandising organizations.

Thank you, Justin. And yes, thanks for being Frank and not just in there. And Tal, you have the last word.

Well, I'm going to double down on what Justin said, not only the dad jokes, which I am also an expert in, but also just to mention that, leveraging machine learning and AI is 100% way to go. But if you're not able to identify the customer experience, measure it, quantify it and see what the impacts are, of making those different types of changes to your core platform. Then you don't have the [inaudible 00:43:59] to know what's next, right? What should be on roadmap and what should be immediate. So data and AI obviously go together, but the analytics around all of the impact of making changes to the customer experience, making changes to your underlying website and eCommerce technology, that can only be underpinned by using experimentation and analytics. And that truly is our experience for the last few years in terms of being able to understand what the different behaviors are in the customer journey.

Well, very well said, I couldn't have said it better. The four of you have made a difference today to our current leadership, retail industry podcast powered by Azure. And with the gratitude of Azure industry experiences team. I will say that all those who want to contact our partners, feel free to reach out for all these organizations, including Blue Yonder, Namangoo, Episerver and Aprimo. Thanks everyone.

This is David. I want to offer a great big thank you to each one of our panelists. You've provided some very compelling dot stories, and I know our listeners are all going to benefit from, and we'll also be posting your social links within the show notes so that listeners can glean even more of your wisdom by following you on LinkedIn and or Twitter. And finally a big thank you to Sahir for doing such a great job, moderating the conversation.

Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Azure for industry podcast. The show that explores how industry experts are transforming our world with Azure. For show topic recommendations or other feedback, reach out to us at