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Look Out, Amazon: Google Reveals Plans to Digitally Transform a Grocery Giant

At the same time that Amazon is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its big splash into the grocery channel, Google, arguably its chief rival in several markets, is leveraging its own services to help grocers hit back hard at the Seattle-based ecommerce behemoth. And although this one involves one of the top international grocers in the world, we should expect to see similar partnerships coming to U.S. grocers.

Carrefour Group, the Boulogne-Billaincourt, France-based retailer that operates stores in more than 30 countries, is partnering with the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant to develop a future-proofing strategy based around three initiatives involving a new buying experience through Google platforms, an innovation lab, and accelerating the retailer’s digital transformation. To fuel the partnership, Google will bring its technology and skills in artificial intelligence, cloud and new consumer shopping interfaces like Google Assistant, while Carrefour will contribute its product expertise and logistics and sales knowhow.

“The common objective of this partnership is to bring together the expertise of both companies to offer consumers new and innovative commerce experiences in France, whether that’s in a store, online, on smartphones or with voice,” the retail giant said.

More specifically, the three initiatives will involve:

  • A new buying experience from Carrefour across Google platforms: These will consist of Google Assistant, Google Home and a new experience on the Shopping website in France, all of which will help expand the Carrefour footprint digitally. The common goal of both companies is to provide simplified, intuitive buying experiences for users, and by early next year, users in France will be able to shop for groceries through the aforementioned channels. They then can choose home delivery or in-store pickup for procuring their purchased goods.
  • The opening of an innovation lab in Paris this summer. In partnership with Google Cloud, Carrefour will unveil a new location where its engineers will work alongside Google Cloud AI experts to create new consumer experiences together.
  • A training program to accelerate the digital transformation of Carrefour Group. The two companies, through the initiative, will aim to create a culture of quick decision-making and agility within the group, training more than 1,000 Carrefour employees with the support of Google Cloud in six months. Carrefour will deploy Google Cloud’s G Suite productivity and collaboration solutions (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts, Docs, etc.) to more than 160,000 Carrefour employees; and the use of Google Cloud Platform infrastructure will be accelerated.

"This alliance makes Carrefour the first partner of Google on grocery ecommerce in Europe, creating a strong bond between the two companies. It also marks an important step in the new story written by Carrefour since the announcement of the Carrefour 2022 plan. It allows us to accelerate our digital evolution and get a head start in deploying the omnichannel approach we want to offer our customers," said Alexandre Bompard, CEO of Carrefour.

Added Sébastien Missoffe, VP and managing director of Google France: "Shoppers today are saddled with disconnected experiences through the shopping journey, which often lead to abandoned shopping carts and low customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers want assistive, simple and personalized experiences that help them make decisions on what to buy, assist with easily building baskets across surfaces, and provide a seamless checkout. With Alexandre Bompard and his team, we wanted to explore new distribution models and ecommerce technologies to deliver simple, frictionless and deeply relevant experiences for shoppers in France.”

This is the second time in the past week that a major technology company has been reported to be working on ways to help grocers better defend themselves against the Amazon threat. Last week, Reuters reported that Microsoft is creating a system for grocers similar to the one Amazon uses in its now-expanding Amazon Go format. The Redmond, Wash.-based company's new system reportedly can track whatever a shopper takes off a shelf and places in his cart.

The technology company is said to have showed the new offering to a number of retailers worldwide, including Walmart, which has reportedly been in talks about “a potential collaboration.” 

About the Author

Randy Hofbauer

Randy Hofbauer is the former digital and technology editor of Progressive Grocer. He has more than a decade of experience as a content strategist, researcher and marketer, almost all of it covering CPG retailing. His insights and work have been cited in a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune, and he was named a finalist in the Software & Information Industry Association's 2018 Emerging Leader Awards. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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