Albertsons Cos. and Google have formed a multiyear partnership with the aim of making shopping easier and more convenient for millions of customers across the country, merging the grocer’s broad reach and retail know-how with the tech company’s capacity for customer-centric disruptive innovation.
After collaborating behind the scenes for the past year, the two companies are now introducing several new enhancements that aim to make the shopping experience easier and more exciting. Among the partnership’s planned innovations are shoppable maps with dynamic hyperlocal features, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered conversational commerce, and predictive grocery list building via Google Cloud.
“Albertsons Cos. is committed to transforming the industry and providing the easiest and most exciting shopping experience for our customers,” noted Chris Rupp, EVP and chief customer and digital officer at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons. “In bringing together Google’s technology expertise with our commitment to customer-centric innovation, we’re providing our customers with a superior shopping experience no matter how they choose to shop with us.”
“By combining the grocery shopping ecosystem of Albertsons and the AI, technology and platforms of Google, we can build disruptive grocery shopping experiences at an unprecedented scale,” Rupp told Progressive Grocer. “Our partnership launched in April 2020 with a virtual Innovation Day in which hundreds of ideas were distilled into a mission to redefine how people shop. Since then, we have been experimenting with new experiences and shopping journeys that have begun to make an impact.”
In the area of natural-language processing (NLP) technology in particular, she affirmed that “there has been significant progress .... Because voice is the most natural form of communication, we believe it is time for us to use this mode of interaction with customers in certain circumstances. We are in the beginning stages of exploring use cases, and excited to partner with Google in developing innovative customer experiences.”
Beyond customer-facing applications, Rupp noted that Albertsons was “exploring various use cases for NLP to support in-store operations to empower associates to save time and make better decisions. Since Google is the leader in NLP technology, we are very excited about what lies ahead.”
The partnership’s rollouts will build on projects already implemented to improve the customer experience. Albertsons and Google are now making it even easier for customers to pick up groceries or have them delivered by providing pertinent information about online ordering from many Albertsons stores directly within mobile search — a functionality coming to Google Maps later this year. Earlier this month, Albertsons revealed its use of Business Messages to help people get the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines at the grocer’s pharmacies.
“Albertsons Cos. is leading the way in bringing innovative technologies to the grocery store aisle,” said Carrie Tharp, VP of retail and consumer, Google Cloud at Mountain View, California-based Google. “We’re proud to partner with Albertsons Cos. to streamline processes and power innovative shopping experiences for customers.”
According to the companies, “The unprecedented strategic and technical collaboration at the heart of the Google and Albertsons partnership sets the stage for sustained post-pandemic transformation and momentum that will become clear to customers in both the near- and long-term.”
Asked by PG just what these innovations will mean for shoppers, Rupp replied: “Customers are now beginning to discover new and dynamic shopping journeys that bridge Albertsons Cos. and Google. We are integrated with surfaces like Google Local Actions (Maps), Gpay, and cutting-edge technologies like Retail AI and Vision AI. For the customer, this means they can more easily begin their shopping journey whenever and wherever it is most convenient. All of our efforts have a hyper-local focus to increase the connection between a shopper and the store in their community. We are just scratching the surface on using technology to make grocery shopping easier.”
Added Rupp: “We continue to partner with numerous teams at Google to combine the power of AI with grocery. The areas that we believe to be most impact for our customers is creating a more convenient shopping experience and ensuring outstanding fulfillment accuracy. We are focused on driving innovation in these areas with Google.”
Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 398 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the banners Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen. The company is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.