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Google Cloud builds AI bridge for retail

Jan 17, 2024
Illustration of a briefcase-shaped storm cloud with a silver lining

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google Cloud aims to close the tech gap between retailers' digital and physical realms with new AI-supported omnichannel features.

Why it matters: Delivering good customer experiences has often been retailers' winning strategy, and employing AI across its operations is increasingly seen as aiding that.

What's happening: Ahead of NRF, Google Cloud rolled out a combined hardware and software tool to modernize operations for brick-and-mortar retailers with little to internet connectivity.

  • Leveraging Google Cloud's AI features, the tool can collect store analytics, enable frictionless checkout, and offer store associates visibility into daily merchandise volume.
  • Google Cloud also introduced a new conversational commerce feature and augmented search and cataloging capabilities.

Zoom in: Google Cloud said this week it was partnering with Victoria's Secret, giving the lingerie retailer some tools to create more personalized and inclusive online shopping experiences.

  • Victoria's Secret will be working with Google Cloud's conversational assistant to support shoppers and offer tailored product recommendations.
  • The AI chatbot will allow the retailer to "have a very natural conversation with you and have an exchange that feels much more like speaking to a human than it had in the past," Google Cloud managing director of retail Amy Eschliman told Axios on the sidelines of the NRF Retail's Big Show in New York.
  • The retailer will also be able to analyze consumer sentiment and optimize its product forecast demand with Google Cloud's AI tools.

Of note: The partnership will also enable more integration between Victoria's Secret and DTC brand Adore Me, which closed early last year.

What they're saying: "As a consumer, the experience that I have really helps define the brand for me, helps me connect to them and this [AI] is unlocking experiences that I might not have been able to have before," Eschliman says.

Zoom out: More than 80% of retail decision-makers say they feel the "urgency" to adopt generative AI within their organization, according to a Google Cloud survey of 274 U.S. C-suite executives, IT leads and business development managers.

  • About 72% say they're ready to deploy generative AI in the very near term.
  • "If you think about customer expectations — the need for more personalization, the desire for easier and more seamless experiences — those lend themselves very well to generative AI," Eschliman says.
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