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MicroStrategy chief Michael Saylor introduces 'Alert'

MicroStrategy evolves to target retail

By Retail Technology | Tuesday July 9 2013

Introduction of newly developed identity and loyalty software platforms takes 'big data' vendor into customer-facing territory, reports Miya Knights

Business intelligence software (BI) firm MicroStrategy today introduced two new mobile software platforms to Europe aimed at identity management and loyalty schemes.

Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy chairman and chief executive, outlined the new applications as part of his company's continued mobile development roadmap at its European user conference in Barcelona.

Saylor told delegates that, building on enhancements to the MicroStrategy Mobile BI platform, the company was developing two new platforms that would help its customers to work "smarter and faster," and get ahead of the competition. 

"I believe you ignore the mobile application world at your own risk, where 2013 is an inflection point," he said. 

"Every company needs to be building for mobile. And there's not one company out there that isn't thinking about the 950 million smartphones that will be manufactured and sold this year. How do you ignore a billion devices sold in a year?"

Building on BI heritage

Best known for its BI and analytics software, the company has been building on the mobile platform it launched in 2010, unveiling in the US this January the new applications for identity management, marketing and commerce, aligning itself with many current retail developments.

Just as iTunes changed appetites towards physical media or, as Sayler pointed out, "Amazon has forced retail not to ignore software," the new 'Usher' and 'Alert' MicroStrategy products respectively tackle the two still largely paper-based areas of authentication and loyalty.

Usher aims to replace the likes of passwords, passports and identity cards, while Alert is looking to put pay to wallets bulging with plastic or paper loyalty cards, and replacing them with more dynamic mobile apps.

"Identity right now works in obsolete way," Saylor argued, adding that having identity credentials on a smartphone, with encryption, password protection, geolocation and remote wipe facilities, is a hundred times more secure than cards in a wallet. Usher takes this a step further by being designed to integrate with security agents, portals, doors or any system for managing access and control throughout authentication processes.

"It enables real-time credential checks, so if access is revoked one second before authentication, the system will know," he continued. 

"It can integrate with iris scanning or other authentication technologies and even enabled proximity based security locking. No more usernames and passwords, while tackling compliance and fraud by leaving an audit trail for security to follow."

Saylor even took aim at traditional time and attendance (T&A) systems for being outdated, inefficient, error prone and open to fraud: "There are retailer customers of ours who have 200,000 employees turn up everyday and punch a time clock - using a 100 year old, paper-based process."

Harnessing mobile for loyalty

MicroStrategy's Alert platform is designed to build loyalty apps and aggregation, as Usher is aiming to do for authentication. But, in doing so, the vendor is entering new territory dominated by more traditional vertical incumbents.

Alert combines the social and promotional capabilities of existing loyalty apps with the browsing and checkout functionality more usually associated with retailer's m-commerce or e-commerce offerings, along with newer features like e-receipts.

"It has a shopping basket and check out," Saylor added. "But imagine also having your receipt history in the palm of your hand: I could reorder a shirt I bought a few years ago - now that's loyalty." 

Developing and aggregating these features, with marketing and promotions, as well as social networking content in one white-label app would give consumer-facing businesses a "three-year head start in just a matter of weeks," he said.

MicroStrategy named US retailer Tilly and global designer brand Guess, Inc. as early Alert adopters. Lou Martinage, MicroStrategy senior product manager, told Retail Technology: "Alert has all the hallmarks of a cloud-based platform for delivering a branded m-commerce and loyalty app. 

"It connects to existing programmes and assets and mobilises them. And it also leverages our BI expertise with a very easy to use campaign management system to populate the app with pre-existing content."

Making the most of 'big data'

Andy Bitterer, research vice president at Gartner, specialising in BI, data integration and data quality, told Retail Technology the Usher and Alert applications builds on the vendor's head start in the mobile space.

"MicroStrategy was one of the first [IT] companies who understood the importance of the mobile revolution," he said. "They are developing a platform to build new applications that are data driven, which is exactly what Microsoft and Java did before."

Bitterer also said the applications marked a trend where, "BI a couple of years ago was all about internal, transactional or asset types data". 

Now that MicroStrategy is focusing on applications to manipulate and derive value from larger and more varied data sources, he added: "So much of what people are calling 'big data' today is from external sources, like sensors, geolocation data and even social. But only a few organisations have figured out what to do with it all."

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