Albertsons boosts tech-focused partnership with Microsoft
- Albertsons is partnering with Microsoft to use its cloud platform for a variety of initiatives aimed to transform the customer experience while also optimizing operations and improving product offerings. Some of Microsoft's core technologies will be deployed in immediate and long-term projects, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, Azure Cognitive Services and Azure AI.
- With "the frictionless future of grocery shopping," Albertsons want to improve efficiency and ease throughout its stores, including reducing wait times at the deli and checkout lines, and preventing products from going out of stock. Microsoft has already helped Albertsons revamp 25 of its gas stations through its One Touch Fuel technology, which allows customers to complete the entire process, including payment, from an app on their phone.
- Albertsons will also use Microsoft 365 to enable collaboration for corporate employees across the company's sectors. Store associates can use Albertsons' new online Retail Portal, to access real-time information about store specials, promotions, and product recalls.
Tapping tech giants to create more futuristic shopping tools and personalized experiences is a growing trend among the grocery retail giants, especially since Amazon purchased Whole Foods.
In January, Albertsons and Microsoft announced its cloud partnership, which included signing the grocers' employees up with the Microsoft 365 bundle. At the time of the deal, Albertsons announced intentions of using Microsoft's AI capabilities to co-create cashierless systems.
Microsoft also has an ever-expanding partnership with the nation's largest grocery chain, Kroger. Their two pilot stores are full of tech-loaded bells and whistles, including smart displays and inventory management sensors. Kroger's Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment (EDGE) shelving system allows users to streamline their shopping ventures by assigning icons to certain products that the system then shows to the user as they are searching for it. Kroger and Microsoft's collaboration — "Retail as a Service" product, powered by Azure — also lets the grocer better plan for out-of-stock items, collect customer information and help with merchandising plans. Microsoft hopes to commercialize the product once it completes trials with Kroger.
Though Albertsons' and Kroger's ambitions vary with Microsoft, the tech company is curating a specific suite of products for grocers across its cloud, including big data, modern workplace, internet of things, advanced analytics and AI.
Amazon, of course, is one of the most-well known users of technology with its Go concept. The retail giant's cashier-less stores allow shoppers to scan their purchases and leave, while other startups like Grabango are working on creating cashier-less technologies, The Spoon reports.
Behind the storefront, Microsoft is already working to help Albertsons employees improve their workday experiences, as the retailer moves its e-commerce websites, loyalty applications and other digital workloads to Azure. Albertsons is also planning to build a data science and analytics platform on Azure to gain better insight into the mountains of data that it collects. Store managers will be able to use predictive scenarios, for example, to test different promos and offerings to identify the best revenue-driving opportunities.
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