Microsoft’s cloud business hooks a big retailer
Microsoft is taking one the nation’s biggest apparel retailers to the cloud.
Gap Inc. said Friday that it will use Microsoft’s cloud portfolio to drive its company-wide digital transformation strategy. Armed with the company’s cloud technology, Gap said it is positioned to deploy new business capabilities and work more efficiently across the organization. The platform will also allow Gap employees across its brands worldwide, including Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, Hill City and Intermix, to communicate, collaborate and share insights with one another.
Gap is migrating hundreds of applications to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform in a move designed to support a seamless and personalized experience for customers as they shop across stores, online and mobile. The first priority is to move the key inventory, stores and site capabilities from the brand portfolio to the cloud, a move that will manage all products available for purchase in more than 90 countries, and through multiple channels, including over 3,100 company-operated stores.
In addition, Gap is using Microsoft’s platform-as-a-service offerings to accelerate its time to market for new customer services, and empower customers with greater flexibility in where and how they want to shop. The cloud also supports engineers’ and product management teams’ ability to rapidly develop, deploy and test new capabilities.
By building and centralizing its data platform on Azure, Gap can also apply advanced analytics and machine learning to gain a comprehensive understanding of customers across channels, and to deliver personalized merchandising, marketing and service for all of its brands. Microsoft’s business intelligence (BI) solution will also empower employees to visualize and act on information, create the best customer experience, and drive the business, Gap said.
“As we grow our value and active business and accelerate online and mobile, the ability to scale our technology in a secure environment to accommodate this growth is critical,” said Sally Gilligan, CIO, Gap Inc. “The Microsoft Azure platform provides our teams the ability to deliver innovative and personalized capabilities for our customers with speed supported by a strong depth of technology expertise from the Microsoft team.”
Ulta Beauty makes first-ever acquisitions
Ulta Beauty has made its first-ever acquisitions — and they are both in the tech field.
The beauty giant’s online strategy is moving into high gear as it looks to build a “digital innovative ecosystem.” In a release, Ulta said it has invested in digital workflow partner Iterate, and an online booking tool called Spruce. The company also has acquired two technology start-ups in artificial intelligence and augmented reality — QM Scientific and GlamSt — which the retailer said will allow it to better build out its AR and AI capabilities, especially as they relate to personalization.
On the brick-and-mortar front, Ulta increased its store build-out from the previous range of 1,400 to 1,700 stores to a range of 1,500 to 1,700 stores.(As of Nov. 3, the retailer operated 1,163 locations across 50 states.). It plans to open 80 stores in 2019, 75 in 2020 and 70 in 2021, in sync with “a stronger focus on optimizing the store portfolio.”
In addition, Ulta said it now targeting e-commerce fulfillment of two day-delivery by 2021, supported by the opening of a “fast fulfillment” center in 2019 serving e-commerce only orders, and the implementation of ship-from-store capability in select stores.
Ulta announced its latest moves in conjunction with its 2018 analyst and investor conference.
Amazon’s pickup service through Whole Foods grows to more markets
One of Whole Foods Markets’ time-saving online delivery options is picking up steam.
The online giant on Wednesday said it has launched free two-hour delivery from Whole Foods through Prime Now across eight more cities, including Birmingham, Colorado Springs, Long Island, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Tacoma and Tulsa. The curbside service enables Prime members to pick up their order at a local Whole Foods Market store within an hour — without leaving their car.
Customers can pick up orders worth $35 within an hour. A $4.99 fee applies orders ready within 30 minutes. Prime members can shop thousands of fresh items and everyday staples. Select alcohol is also available to customers in Long Island, San Antonio and Tacoma.
The service, which launched in August, is now available in 22 cities. More markets are planned throughout 2018, according to Amazon.