Microsoft, Accenture to Launch Retail Service Package

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Next week at the National Retail Federation annual convention in New York, Microsoft and Accenture will launch a set of integration services customized to help retail businesses build and run coordinated digital marketing campaigns.

The integration service, called Style Star, aims to simplify what the companies see as two current headaches for retail businesses. One is sharing marketing content across disparate multimedia platforms. The other is channeling that customer feedback and sales generated from these platforms into back-end analytics and supply chain systems.

Microsoft will provide much of the software, while Accenture will oversee the integration and customization work, said Paula Paravecchio, a Microsoft marketing development director for the company's distribution and services industry unit. Avanade, a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft that specializes in Microsoft software customization, will carry out the integration work.

The companies introduced the "Style Star" nameplate last September in Italy, where they staged virtual fashion runway show during the Milan Fashion Week to demonstrate the concept. The service will be marketed to speciality retailers, such as fashion houses and other vendors of luxury goods, Paravecchio said.

Today, retail businesses should think about getting their message out across multiple platforms, such as the Web, social networking sites, mobile phones, in-store kiosks, and video games, Paravecchio advised. Putting everything on a single platform allows the retailer to coordinate and share materials and feedback across all the different forms of electronic media.

"Retailers tend to deal in separate channels: They have a selling approach for stores, a selling approach for the Web, a selling approach for mobile devices. But customers want one experience overall," Paravecchio said.

The Style Star service will set a coordinated set of development and run-time technologies, based on Microsoft products such as Silverlight and the Microsoft Surface touch-screen computer, which can be used as an in-store promotional tool.

Since such multimedia platforms could generate customer feedback and even accept purchase orders, the Style Star integration service will also help businesses set up processes to analyze and even channel customer feedback into existing or new customer relationship management, enterprise resource management and other back-end management software.

"Everyone is struggling in with the linkage between digital marketing and e-commerce," Paravecchio said. What Style Star will offer, she said, is "connected retail experience."

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