The National Retail Federation Big Show begins January 15 in New York City, and the program this year reflects the industry's growing push to set new standards for customer service, as well as the increasing role of technology in creating a better shopping experience. This focus comes through in every conversation I have with leading retailers around the world:  It's all about building closer customer relationships and serving consumers in a way that is personal, seamless, and unique. 

At Microsoft, our mission is to help retailers become dynamic and to evolve their businesses from multi-channel operations to "omni-channel."  This means enabling them to deliver a consistently delightful and seamless brand experience at every customer interaction, whether it's via the store, website, call center, or social network. With omni-channel retailers, customers can redeem Facebook and other online promotions in the store; they can order products on the website and immediately go to the store to pick them up; and they can use store credit they've been given at one location anywhere in the chain. 

We'll be introducing Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for Retail at NRF, and our goal in developing this system is to help retailers provide their customers with a superior experience every time, everywhere they shop.  Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is a fully integrated solution that provides retailers with complete visibility of all customer interactions, in real time across all channels, as well as the ability to manage those interactions, locally and globally, from a central point.  Bringing together the entire retail operation, from point-of-sale to store operations to merchandising to supply chain, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 enables retailers to be more connected to their customers and more proactive in anticipating and addressing changing customer demands.    

Agility, speed and simplicity, across the board, are fundamental to our approach.  Imagine being able to adapt your business applications immediately, without writing code, to support changes in your retail organization.  If you're opening a new store, integrating acquisitions, or adding distribution centers, Microsoft Dynamics allows you to make those changes to the system with a simple "drag and drop." And it's just as easy to update your point-of-sale system with new products, images and messages - and those changes will go live seamlessly on every device. 

In addition, sales associates can create orders and quotations without ever leaving the customer's side, using POS-based order support capabilities. Leading retailers, like Ashley Furniture and Mattress Firm, are choosing Microsoft Dynamics in large part because of these POS capabilities, which give sales associates the power to do what they do best:  deliver a great customer experience and serve as ambassadors for the brand.

At Microsoft, we see the power of retail technology first-hand - as a retailer, as a consumer device provider, and as a developer of enterprise business applications.  We're excited about the future of retail and believe we're heading into a period of enormous innovation, as retailers create new and better shopping experiences, incorporating everything from cloud computing to Kinect touch-free interfaces to mobile applications.  It's a Golden Era for retailers and shoppers alike, and we're thrilled to be a part of it.

-Kirill Tatarinov

Visit Microsoft at the NRF Big Show at stand #1337; and follow the Microsoft Dynamics ERP team on Twitter at @MSFTDynamicsERP, by using the hashtag #MSDYNERP, and on Facebook, YouTube and The Edge Blog.