Skip to main content

Google Uses AI to Tackle Grocers' Top Concerns

Company exec exclusively talks to Progressive Grocer about issues at food retail that can be addressed with artificial intelligence
Juan Luis Gomes, Google
According to Google Managing Director Jose Luis Gomes, the company and its partners created a solution that leverages AI to counter associate downtime and lack of productivity.

The Kroger Co., Google Cloud and Deloitte recently collaborated on two purpose-built applications to enhance associate productivity. One is a task management application that gives Kroger’s night crew managers greater visibility into the volume and type of merchandise arriving on a given day, store staffing information and stocking needs. The other is a store management application that allows store leaders to be less dependent on paper tools. Both apps are now automatically generating tasks and prioritizing meaningful work for Kroger associates chain-wide.

Jose Luis Gomes, managing director, retail and consumer at Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Cloud, tells Progressive Grocer that the decision to team up was a no-brainer: “We are trusted advisors, Deloitte are trusted advisors, and it’s very possible for us to partner in that way. We provided our capabilities and our products and subject-matter expertise.”

Asked about the problems faced by Kroger specifically — and the retail industry in general — that led to the apps’ development, Gomes notes: “It is scarcity of labor, being able to find folks, being able to retain folks and, as a result of that sort of scarcity, ensuring that you are getting the most out of the time that people are in the stores. At the same time, [you need to provide] them a fantastic experience that makes them want to stay.”

Identifying a “gap in the market” in relation to task prioritization, Google and its partners were “able to create something that leverages [artificial intelligence (AI)] to continue to learn, so that we’re always helping associates know what the next thing that they should be doing is,” explains Gomes, “and that is contextual and alive, so that if something happens, the prioritization changes.”

Advertisement - article continues below
Apps that Kroger developed with Google and Deloitte
Apps that Kroger developed with Google and Deloitte are now prioritizing meaningful work for the grocer’s associates.

Uncovering the Value

In response to a question about the value of these types of solutions to grocers, Gomes notes that they can counter the “tremendous amount of downtime” and “lack of productivity” caused by problems like late trucks or not enough associates showing up for a shift by giving companies the ability to reprioritize tasks. He also points to the ability to figure out the most valuable task, which can be measured in various ways, among them “the highest gross margin activity … based on how much I’m going to sell of each product, and how much margin I make from them,” or “the most loyalty-driving activity that I could be doing.” Then there are the sudden urgent items that arise, like “a spillage in aisle six … that takes precedence over restocking the popcorn.”

What the agile, real-time solutions developed with Kroger and Deloitte aim to do is “reduce idle time by giving people better information[;] focus [users] on the most important activities, and that’s defined by the retailer”; and enable a change of plan in response to unexpected schedule deviations, observes Gomes, who adds, “Underpinning [these solutions] is a platform that continues to learn, continues to get smarter and continues to make better recommendations as time goes on.”

Having just been at the NRF Show in New York in January, Gomes notes that Google’s AI technology is seeking to address some of the top issues discussed at the event, such as associate experience, which he deems “front and center,” through solutions that enable hands-free picking and tell workers when items are out of stock, respectively; supply chain visibility from distribution centers to stores, using machine learning along with AI to determine fair allocation; and reducing friction in the customer experience by recommending the best products for customers and enabling them “to find the products that they’re looking for, even when they don’t know exactly the name of that product.” 

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds