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5 Things To Know About Google Cloud’s Best Buy Partnership

‘It‘s extremely strategic to see customers like this have a partnership with Google Cloud, because that just brings out more partners, more architects, more GCP-certified engineers in order to create these incredible solutions,’ said Scott Jensen, client partner director at SADA Systems. ‘And these often -- if they’re not bespoke solutions -- are bespoke integrations at each of these types of customers, so it’s a huge boon for the partner ecosystem.’

Google Cloud’s expanded partnership with consumer electronics chain Best Buy is a signal that the No. 3 cloud computing provider has reached critical mass with large consumer retail organizations, according to channel partners.

Google Cloud yesterday announced a new multi-year agreement that names it as the cloud provider for Best Buy’s enterprise data platform for an unspecified term.

The Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy will use Google Cloud‘s infrastructure and analytics services to drive its data-driven retail strategy to provide new and more personalized customer shopping experiences.

Google Cloud Retail Momentum

“It’s really a signal from and about Google Cloud that it‘s reached a critical mass with large consumer retail organizations,” said Scott Jensen, client partner director at SADA Systems, a Google Cloud Premier Partner with headquarters in Los Angeles. “Best Buy is a very, very well-known brand name, and it transcends pretty much every different type of a retail segment.”

Best Buy, which has 1,225 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico in addition to its e-commerce site, generated revenue of $42.87 billion in the fiscal year that ended Feb. 2.

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and better understanding their needs will help us create new, more meaningful experiences for them,” Brian Tilzer, Best Buy’s chief digital and technology officer, said in a statement. ”Partnering with Google Cloud and the impressive capabilities its platform offers will help make these experiences a reality.”

The Partnership

Google Cloud and Best Buy were tight-lipped on details of their new agreement, which will expand Best Buy’s selection and use of Google solutions and products to personalize customer relationships, discover new insights and provide new services to its customers.

The partnership is built on two pillars: unifying Best Buy’s data sources and developing new customer products and services.

“Retailers like Best Buy are accelerating their digital transformations in order to deliver new products and services to customers,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said in a statement. ”Using Google Cloud‘s scalable and secure infrastructure, and leading data and analytics solutions, Best Buy will be able create new insights from their data, enabling them to innovate now and into the future.”

Google Cloud will help unify Best Buy’s data sources located across its legacy platforms and bring them into the retailer’s enterprise data platform – which is powered by Google Cloud -- and then use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) models to build more personalized offers and product recommendations for shoppers.

The data unification will allow Best Buy to experiment with new products to improve customer experiences such as omnichannel services and tailored rewards.

“Google Cloud and Best Buy are committed to developing new capabilities that will accelerate Best Buy‘s digital strategy and further the retailers’ digital transformation journey,” the companies said. “And because these innovations are based on flexible cloud technology, Best Buy can iterate new ideas rapidly.”

The partnership exemplifies a customer-first approach leveraging data, ML and AI to help provide new levels of personalization for consumers, while at the same time supporting innovation and agility for the business, according to Rachel Cassidy, senior vice president for global channel and cloud at SUSE, a Google Cloud strategic partner based in Nuremberg, Germany.

“Many of our partners are evolving their offerings to support their customers’ digital transformation with a customer-first focus,” Cassidy said. “Best Buy operates in a constantly changing industry, and this partnership will allow them to more rapidly adapt to the wants and needs of their consumers with increased responsiveness, which will uplift the overall customer experience.”

Google Cloud’s Industry Verticals Strategy

Retail is one of six industries that Google Cloud has been targeting with solutions tailored specifically to their needs under Kurian. It’s also one of the largest and fastest-growing industries for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based cloud provider, whose retail solutions include e-commerce hosting, real-time inventory management and analytics, Contact Center AI and AI-powered product recommendations.

Google Cloud this year has ramped up capabilities for its grocery and mass-merchandising retail customers to Black Friday and Cyber Monday levels to help them meet unprecedented demand for groceries and other essentials amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It hired Carrie Tharp last August to lead its retail drive as vice president of retail and consumer. Tharp previously served as chief digital and marketing officer for Dallas luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group, which includes the Neiman Marcus, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Bergdorf Goodman and Horchow brands.

Google Cloud’s three-pronged strategy to help retailers digitally transform, realize efficiencies and gain customers focuses on accelerating their digital and omnichannel revenue growth, helping them become more customer-centric and data-driven, and providing solutions that lead to operational improvements.

“Google Cloud has been investing heavily in the retail vertical with solutions, industry experts and sellers,” said Benjamin Mokotoff, managing director at Seattle’s Slalom Consulting, a Google Cloud Premier Partner and 2019 Google Cloud Breakthrough Partner of the Year. “BigQuery, Google Cloud’s fully managed data warehouse, is often the hook for retailers that are looking to utilize their petabytes of data as a strategic asset. That investment is paying off as Best Buy follows a number of other large retailers hitching their wagon to Google Cloud, joining the likes of The Home Depot, Target, Wayfair, Carrefour and others. Picking up Best Buy right now is a notable win, especially given their recent surge in online sales and strong financial performance despite the pandemic.”

The evolution of Google Cloud’s BigQuery over the past few years -- and the associated advanced analytics products and services that surround it -- has been “tremendous,” Mokotoff said.

“This truly sets Google Cloud apart from their competitors in the enterprise cloud space and makes it a winning solution for retailers,” he said. “The acquisition of Looker coupled with new product announcements like BigQuery Omni are compelling to customers looking to leverage data-driven insights across cloud platforms in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Google Cloud’s focus on retail-centric solutions such as Contact Center AI and Recommendations AI show their dedication to and continued investment in the retail vertical.”

Google Cloud does not power Best Buy’s e-commerce site -- and it’s unclear who does -- but Tharp told Reuters that she hopes the partnership leads to Google eventually driving the retailer’s web ordering system. Best Buy did not respond to CRN inquiries.

The AWS Alternative

Google Cloud, with its analytics expertise and broader Google capabilities such as its search, marketing and advertising reach, is seen as an alternative for retailers wary of partnering with rival Amazon Web Services (AWS) because of its ties to online retail giant Amazon.com, against which they compete.

“To use a metaphor here, you rarely want to give your lunch money to the school bully,” Jensen said. “Perception or reality, there is very much a presence of AWS as that retail behemoth. And though Google has their shopping platforms, it‘s very much more in concert and an integration with retailers from big all the way down to mom and pops.”

Retailers can use Google Cloud to do analytics down to the stock keeping unit (SKU) and individual customer levels, according to Jensen.

“Where GCP shines is being able to handle the data volumes that allow you to get very, very granular, not only with marketing, but proper analysis of cannibalization and affinity for other products and really bring true value to customers who are part of that retail environment,” Jensen said.

The newly announced partnership shows the strength of GCP as a serious contender to AWS, the largest cloud computing provider, and runner-up Microsoft Azure, according to Shea Sanderson, director of cloud services at Premier Cloud, a British Columbia, Canada-based Google Cloud partner specializing in G Suite licensing, cloud migrations and end-user support.

“Google Cloud, while they currently hold…third in ranking amongst the top cloud providers, is working hard to always expand their offerings into areas that corporate entities are looking for,” Shea said. “Best Buy will be looking to tap into Google Cloud‘s updated offering of artificial intelligence that has, as of one month ago, been upgraded to take advantage of NVIDIA’s A100. This new GPU from NVIDIA will enable faster AI processing that is backed by Google Cloud’s offerings of storage and big data as well as deliver a complete system to Best Buy to leverage for their customer analytics.”

How The Deal Helps Partners

Cassidy sees the Google Cloud-Best Buy partnership as a positive move for the channel and Google Cloud’s supporting partner ecosystem.

“As more omni-channel retailers recognize the flexibility and modernization benefits that cloud solutions offer, we will see further innovation take place that will transform how businesses operate,” Cassidy said.

The partnership validates what Google Cloud partners have long-known – that Google Cloud is a viable platform for enterprise data and analytics, said Vanessa Simmons, vice president of business development at Ottawa’s Pythian Services, a Google Premier Partner.

“Retailers are navigating an unprecedented challenge with the global pandemic, which shines a light on the importance of being agile and responsive to customer demands,” Simmons said.

In scenarios dealing with retailers’ point-of-sale, key log or transaction log data, the types of integration, solutions and architectures being used are just as big as the cloud footprint itself, according to SADA’s Jensen.

“So it‘s extremely strategic to see customers like this have a partnership with Google Cloud, because that just brings out more partners, more architects, more GCP-certified engineers in order to create these incredible solutions,” he said. “And these often -- if they’re not bespoke solutions -- are bespoke integrations at each of these types of customers, so it’s a huge boon for the partner ecosystem.”

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