Microsoft has announced that it’s partnering with FedEx for a “logistics as a service” offering for retailers and etailers. Just as logistics and shipping are components of the broader retail and commerce worlds, this logistics-as-a-service product is pursuant to Microsoft’s broader “retail-as-a-service” (RaaS) play.
Before getting into the RaaS angle, what did Microsoft and FedEx announce specifically? FedEx’s network intelligence and shipping logistics will be integrated directly into Microsoft’s Dynamics 365. There it will work with a range of ERP, CRM and eCommerce platforms for maximum applicability.
For example, FedEx’s AI and logistics will integrate with Dynamics 365’s Intelligent Order Management tool. This helps brands and retailers organize and access data that relates to fulfilling and shipping customer orders. It’s meant to democratize and de-stress logistics for large and small businesses.
The benefits of these integrations include (verbatim from Microsoft).
- Faster, more cost-efficient delivery
- Near real-time delivery status communications
- Frictionless returns with approximately 60,000 FedEx drop-off locations and printerless QR codes.
The RaaS Race
Back to Microsoft’s broader RaaS play, it’s all about infusing AI, computer vision, and other technologies to streamline physical retail operations. Amazon has led the way with its “just walk out” technology and other orbiting parts such as vertical-specific innovations in coffee and clothing.
Microsoft also has RaaS deployments, with February 1st marking the general availability of it’s latest play: Microsoft Cloud for Retail (MCR). Unlike Amazon’s consumer-facing play, MCR is all about federating data to inform strategy and optimize operations – everything from inventory to store layouts.
The key word there is “federating.” The idea is to provide retailers with a more holistic and single point of insight on the who, when, and where of their customers. The desired outcome is to apply those insights towards back-end and front-end retail functions. And that extends to shipping and logistics.
The latter is where this week’s FedEx partnership ties in. With both physical retail and eCommerce /shipping /logistics capabilities, Microsoft continues to own a greater part of the commerce stack. With that in mind, expect more moves as Amazon, Microsoft, Walmart and others join the RaaS race.