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Google Cloud’s New Retail Solutions Encroach on Amazon Territory

‘We're introducing a number of new products targeted for retail, developing such products using images, recommendations, e-commerce hosting, ordering things online with a digital shopping assistant, demand forecasting and others,’ Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian says.

Google Cloud today unveiled new products aimed at the omni-channel retail industry, cutting into rival Amazon’s territory by targeting retailers and consumer products customers that compete against the e-commerce giant.

The vertical enterprise focus, announced at Google Cloud's annual summit in San Francisco, comes under Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s push to court enterprises across industries to undergo digital business transformations using the No. 3 cloud provider.

“We're introducing a number of new products targeted for retail, developing such products using images, recommendations, e-commerce hosting, ordering things online with a digital shopping assistant, demand forecasting and others,” Kurian said during today's Google Cloud Next '19 keynote address.

Google Cloud created Cloud for Retail solutions, which incorporate its artificial intelligence and data analytics capabilities, in concert with retail partners to address retail-specific problems faced by merchants as they try to attract and retain customers, and drive sales.

“These customers are looking for tools that can make recommendations or better help them find what they need,” said Pravin Pillai, Google Cloud’s global lead for retail industry solutions marketing. “And they want the entire experience to be faster and more personalized than ever. As a result, many retailers are turning to cloud technologies to help meet these needs.”

The new Cloud for Retail solutions allow retailers to leverage cloud capabilities for specific uses throughout the retail value chain: customer acquisition and retention, omni-channel commerce, merchandising and assortment, product life-cycle management, store operations, and logistics, fulfillment and delivery.

Google Cloud yesterday announced it’s added Unilever, Procter & Gamble, IKEA, Tyson Foods and Nestle to its list of retail customers that also includes Bed Bath and Beyond, Carrefour, Designer Brands, Kohl's, Loblaw, METRO, Ocado, Shopify, Target, The Home Depot and Ulta.

Google Cloud’s new e-commerce hosting solution will provide flexible and scalable hosting for a brand’s e-commerce platforms to prevent incidents such as an online shopping website crash during times of peak traffic, such as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season traditionally starts.

A ​real-time inventory management and analytics solution is designed to provide an inventory window on available products on brick-and-mortar retailers’ shelves and in their stockrooms, so there’s less of a chance customers leave their stores without making purchases.

Google Cloud’s “empowered associates” solution combines G Suite capabilities and retailers’ social intranet capabilities to organize, engage and inform their retail workers.

Another Google Cloud product -- Vision Product Search – helps retailers personalize the shopping experience for customers using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Customers can take mobile phone photos and screenshots of products they like and get real-time results of similar or complementary products from a retailer’s catalog. Google Cloud’s AI-powered Product Recommendations solution, which draws on Google’s experience in personalization, helps retailers deliver hyper-personal customer recommendations at scale by continuously adapting to real-time customer behavior and product assortment, pricing and special offers.

“We’ve seen some pretty amazing results so far, with revenue from recommended items increasing as much as 50 percent for some of our first customers,” said Rajen Sheth, Google Cloud’s director of product management for AI.

Other new Google Cloud AI products, while not retail-specific, also can be used by retailers, including AutoML Tables, which is in beta. It allows retailers to build machine learning models on structured data to more quickly fill in their merchandise assortment and optimize distribution.

Contact Center AI, which also is in beta, helps retailers with intuitive customer service by scaling phone support without compromising the customer experience, according to Sheth.

“Its virtual agents can automatically help callers with the most common tasks,” he said. “But, in addition, its agent assist tool can automatically feed information -- relevant information and workflows -- to human agents for those more complex calls. It's based on dialogue, which makes it easy to build intelligent chatbots that can answer questions and perform tasks through natural language. We've integrated this with the top telephony providers and contact center providers in the market, so this should just insert directly into what you have today without rip-and-replace. “

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