Google Introduces Cloud For Retail, Highlights Vision Product Search, Recommendations

Google on Wednesday announced a cloud offering for retailers about four months after Thomas Kurian stepped into his role as Google Cloud CEO after a 22-year career at  Oracle, known for its focus on retail and enterprise companies.

Pravin Pillai, global head of industry solutions, takes the lead on cloud computing for retail at Google. “We’re building connectors to help retailers integrate their data across the company,” he said.

Many companies are building solutions on top of Google Cloud to support entire supply chains, from advertising and auto-replenishment to distribution and materials forecasting, he said.

Google Cloud for Retail enables retailers to quickly take advantage of cloud capabilities, from store operations to merchandising to keeping life-long customers. The offerings are focused around six core pillars in retail. They aim to help companies adopt and apply cloud technology to each.

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Brands like Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, Kohl's, and many other retailers have been working with Google Cloud for years, but the offering for retail focuses on specific challenges they face.

The suite includes services for logistics, fulfillment and delivery, store operations; product lifecycle management; customer acquisition and retention, omnichannel commerce; and merchandising and assortment.

All of the suites offer options for retailers, but within omnichannel ecommerce, Google offers Ecommerce Hosting, Vision Product Search, Recommendation AI and Digital Shopping Assistant.  

Google applied artificial intelligence to many of the services offered through Google Cloud for Retail. The company is fine-tuning vision analytics to create algorithms that understand what’s in an image, which is translated into services like Vision Product Search.

For example, the technology behind Google Lens helped to create Vision Product Search.

Susan Standiford, CTO at IKEA Group, notes that the company worked with Google Cloud to create a new mobile experience that enables customers to take photos of home furnishings and household items and quickly find that product or a similar one in the online catalogue.

The feature relies on Cloud Vision technology to create mobile experiences. Customers can take photos and screenshots from their phone of products they like. The experience provides real-time results for similar or complementary items from the retailer’s product catalog. Customers can find what they want as they search and purchase products.

The suite also includes Product Recommendations, which serves up personal recommendations. It continually learns and adapts to the person searching and their behavior on the site.  

Contact Center AI, and AutoML Tables, both in beta, are two other significant products. Content Center AI helps retailers build intuitive customer-care experiences with a variety of options such as virtual assistants. AutoML Tables makes it possible to automatically build and deploy machine learning models on structured data in a few clicks, reducing the total time required from weeks to days.

Pitney Bowes used AutoML Tables to identify risky cross-border payments and shipments.

Accenture, Bluecore, Capgemini, Deloitte, LumApps, Publicic Sapient, SAP, Sensormatic, Tableau, Trax, and Tulip Retail all support Google’s offering. There are other development and migration partners such as Rackspace.

U.K.-based Lush, a global cosmetics company, migrated its ecommerce site to the Google Cloud platform in 22 days, according to a case study on Google’s site.  

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