Coles is putting in place a cloud and data strategy which will allow it to implement AI across many facets of its business, including its supply chain and physical stores, to help drive innovation. The supermarket giant has signed a long-term strategic partnership with Microsoft, utilising its Azure cloud technology to transform the shopping experience for customers, improving productivity and creating ease for employees. 

As well as moving its application to Azure, Coles is building an enterprise data platform in Azure that will power advanced analytics across the supermarket’s operations.

Coles said the use of Azure AI services will bolster its ability to use a variety of customer insights to drive decision making and better tailor its range to meet the needs of customers and how they like to shop. These decisions will be based on deeper data analysis from its proprietary research, flybuys and customer transactions.

Included in Coles’ new smarter selling strategy, team members will be provided with a range of new tools transforming how they work by removing manual tasks for repetitive activities like stock management and price markdowns. 

Coles will also deploy Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 enterprise resource planning solution in its Coles Express and meat manufacturing businesses to create simpler, more efficient and robust operations that empower team members.

Microsoft will also provide tailored training for Coles’ digital and technology teams so they have the necessary skills to exploit the full potential of the new platforms.

Roger Sniezek, chief information and digital officer at Coles said, “By moving to the Azure cloud we will be able to simplify our operations and deliver at pace.

“The Azure-based Enterprise Data Platform will allow us to execute advanced analytics and artificial intelligence across all areas of our business at extreme scale. Dynamics 365 will power a few of our business units, driving simplicity, speed, and robust processes.

(L-R) Roger Sniezek, Chief Information and Digital Officer; Nikala Busse, General Manager Technology for Store and People Platforms & Matt Swindells, Coles’ Chief Operations Officer

“This strategic partnership builds on our long-standing relationship with Microsoft and will enable the Smarter Selling pillar of our strategy through efficiency and pace of change. We’re very confident that Microsoft will empower us to achieve more.

“Coupled with the innovation lab and full executive support from Microsoft, this is an incredibly broad strategic partnership that demonstrates Coles’ commitment to win together with our team members, suppliers and the communities we serve in our second century.”

Nikala Busse, general manager technology for store and people platforms at Coles said, “In terms of customer experience, we really see this as an opportunity to improve availability for our customers and allow us to better tailor the range that we can offer to our customers.

“Coles covers a very broad geography. We operate right across the nation. Our customers are unique in different geographies. With our Enterprise Data Platform we want to be able to tailor and offer an even better experience for our customers when they come into store or they shop online with us. We want to make sure we have great availability – that they can understand the provenance and sustainability of the products that we bring to market.”

Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business, said Microsoft’s experience working with global retailers will help it best support Coles in its technological transformation.

“As the retail industry continues to undergo massive transformation, forward thinking companies are exploring how to leverage technology to better serve their customers and employees. 

“Through our partnership, we will support Coles to provide personalised, seamless experiences for shoppers using AI, offer a more productive workplace for team members through modern collaboration tools and help them unlock better business insights through our advanced analytics solutions.”

Coles has announced a series of strategic partnerships in 2019 with SAP to transform its HR, ERP and procurement system , Ocado for warehouse robotics and automation, and Optus to provide digital network and telecommunications services.

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