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Google Cloud’s Retail Customer Drive Takes Aim At AWS

‘It’s one of our largest and fastest-growing industries,’ says Carrie Tharp, Google Cloud’s vice president of retail and consumer.

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Google Cloud’s Retail Strategy

Google Cloud unveiled its retail strategy at the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show in January.

Kurian also announced new and expanded retail services and solutions at the New York City event, including the pilot of Anthos for Retail, which allows retailers to use Google Cloud’s hybrid and multi-cloud platform to streamline and modernize their store operations, and is expected to roll out more broadly this year.

Google Cloud expanded the availability of its Retail Acceleration Program that helps retailers optimize their websites, build unified views of customer data and drive increased foot traffic, and its “white glove” Customer Reliability Engineering service that helps retailers perform during peak shopping seasons. It also introduced Google Cloud’s new Buy Optimization and Demand Forecasting service and the API Management for Retail solution that allow retailers to easily integrate the systems that power different sales channels, providing a more unified customer shopping experience.

The retail industry has been undergoing a digital transformation, shifting from very traditional in-store selling to digital commerce and engagement, Tharp said, in reference to Google Cloud’s digital and omnichannel focus. Google Cloud is helping customers use its infrastructure capabilities to modernize their e-commerce infrastructures and create omni-channel experiences. That includes a lot of discussion about buying online and picking-up-in-store options, and creating the connection between digital and offline retailing, according to Tharp.

Google Cloud’s core cloud and data platform capabilities, including AI and machine learning, are helping retail and CPG customers become more customer-centric and data-driven to improve everything from ordering and stocking to pricing and promotion optimization, she said.

“A big focus in retail about the store of the future is how do you bring technology into the store, and AI and machine learning is a great example of doing dynamic offers and pricing, and understanding inventory … to just continue to improve that in-store experience,” Tharp said.

Every retailer wants to know their customers better and provide personalized offerings and product recommendations, and that starts with being able to bring together all of their data, according to Tharp.

“It's not just a customer data conversation, but it's really the unique merger of the product data, customer data and supply chain data, and how do you actually use that in real time,” she said. “How do you merge all the different, separate data sources that you're not acting on in real time and start taking action in real time to change the customer experience, to improve margin, etc.”

Google Cloud also offers solutions to help retailers drive operational improvements by taking out any costs that can instead be focused on more value-added customer experiences.

“We have a host of solutions … that help manage the biggest cost-drivers within the retail P&L, so things like helping with labor scheduling in-store, helping supply chain, optimizing fulfillment, optimizing different efforts around pack and ship,” Tharp said.

Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI—its customer service contact solution that’s become increasingly important for retailers amid the coronavirus pandemic—helps handle customer inquiries about issues including order statuses and store hours to free up human time for more complex, high-touch customer problems.

“When you look across the solution offering, there's something in there for all the different members of the retail C-suite—marketing and customer data platform tools for the chief marketing officer, demand forecasting and merchandising tools for the chief merchant, and operational improvement tools both for the CIO to reshape their IT costs [and] the operational stores' IT elements.”

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