Surekha Ragavan
Nov 12, 2019

Microsoft pilots global retail solution in Singapore

We test out the service and report back with notes.

Microsoft pilots global retail solution in Singapore

This week, Microsoft launched a global retail function to simplify the laptop-buying process for consumers. The service, called Microsoft Synchronized Shopping, is being piloted in Singapore at the Harvey Norman Millenia Walk flagship store.

This is how it works: Consumers answer a series of questions to identify their laptop needs on the Harvey Norman website, and are then recommended devices that match their needs. The shortlisted device creates a shopper pass on the consumer’s mobile wallet and embeds a geo-location service within. When the consumer is in proximity of the store, they get a phone notification and will be guided to their PC of choice.

“There are these long tables [in-store] with laptops that are so uninteresting and that didn’t create any sort of emotional connection to what you were touching and feeling," Ami Silverman, corporate VP, worldwide sales, consumer and device sales, Microsoft, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "So how do we create an in-store experience that did not look like rows and rows of computers one after another?" 

The company took learnings from online search habits over three years to narrow down the initial research process online. “Over 76% of people start their PC shopping online. And the reason they do that is so they don’t feel like they don’t know anything walking into a store because it can be very overwhelming and they get confused when someone’s talking about RAM or processors,” said Silverman.

Ami Silverman, Microsoft (left) and Katie Page, Harvey Norman


In a retail store, consumers are looking at an average of 52 laptops on display, which sometimes leads to ‘choice paralysis’, said Silverman.

However, the synchronised shopping function still leads consumers to a physical retail store as a final step in the journey, rather than encouraging them to purchase their chosen device online. The reason for this, according to Silverman, is that consumers still want to touch and feel their devices, especially where the weight and lightness of a laptop are crucial purchasing factors.

“I've been in the hardware space for 15 years, and no matter where I’ve been or what the situation is, people like to touch and feel something that is physical. If it's something that I'm going to have, and my hands are going to be on it every single day, there is still a desire for that,” she said.

Will the service be rolled out across electronics at Harvey Norman? According to Katie Page, CEO of Harvey Norman, the store will first wait for feedback on the Microsoft experience. “One-step-at-a-time learning is important,” she said.

So does it really work?
By Surekha Ragavan

I tested the synchronised shopping function at Harvey Norman’s Millenia Walk flagship store. It began with clicking a banner on the store’s website and answering a bunch of basic questions about my laptop needs. The conversational AI product chose the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 as an ideal product for me. So far, so good. 

The online banner in question on Harvey Norman's website


On the product landing page, it wasn’t entirely clear where the ‘Shopper Pass’ button was, and what its function was exactly. I was told by a Microsoft staffer at the media launch event where it was located and proceeded to save the product onto my mobile wallet. This could only be done by turning on location services on my phone.

As I went into the Harvey Norman store, I was still awaiting a notification on my phone. Alas, nothing. A Microsoft person tinkered with my phone settings before cracking the problem: My Safari app didn’t have its location services on. A notification popped up on my phone and I was swiftly escorted to the device of my choice.

Overall, I like that there's no need to download an app or take up any additional storage on my phone because of the usage of the mobile wallet. However, the journey doesn’t end with the mobile wallet; if I wanted to actually purchase the device, transactional limits enforced by my bank mean I can’t make large purchases using the wallet.

Altogether, the process isn’t entirely seamless if you, like me, prefer to disable notifications and location services unless necessary. And because laptop-buying isn’t a frequent activity for me, manually entering a store after a bit of online research isn’t a major inconvenience for me to begin with.

 

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