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Google And Microsoft Make A Big Push Into Grocery And Department Store Retail

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Tech giants Google and Microsoft have partnered up with two retailers, which will see them push further into the grocery and department store retail space, respectively.

Google announced a tie-up with French supermarket giant Carrefour, which will see the company sell its groceries on Google’s new dedicated French shopping site starting next year. Carrefour groceries will also be available via Google-operated connected speakers and voice-assisted devices.

The companies said in a statement they would open an innovation lab in Paris this summer, in partnership with Google Cloud, for research into artificial intelligence that can be used in consumer services. Carrefour has 12,300 stores globally, around half of them in France.

For both companies the joint venture is about combating Amazon and growing the number of people buying groceries online and via smartphones. Carrefour’s French rival sells products on Amazon and has an online delivery partnership with U.K. firm Ocado.

In the U.S., Google has completed a similar tie-up with Walmart to sell products through its voice-activated systems.

Marks & Spencer on the high street

In the U.K. Microsoft announced a deal with clothing, food and furnishings retailer M&S to test artificial intelligence systems in its stores and operations.

A team of AI engineers and product personnel from Microsoft will partner with the M&S Retail Labs team to accelerate M&S’ digital transformation, the companies said, with the aim to improve customer experience and operations in M&S stores.

M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe said the tie-up could be a “game changer” for the company, but didn’t provide any details on what kind of AI would be trialled. Current and anticipated future uses for AI in retail include personalising the shopping experience through customer recognition technology.

M&S certainly needs to overhaul its customer experience — the company has seen revenues steadily declining in its non-food businesses in recent years, and is planning to close around 100 of its approximately 1,000 stores.