A year ago, Albertsons Cos. and Google held a joint innovation day with the goal of redefining how people shop. Born of that bold brainstorming session is the recently announced multiyear partnership between the Boise, Idaho-based grocer and the California-based tech company, which they say will be a “formidable nexus of retail savvy and trendsetting technology on a massive, omnichannel scale.”
The partnership speaks to Albertsons Cos.’ continuing transformation into a “modern retailer fit for the future,” Chris Rupp, EVP and chief customer and digital officer of Albertsons Cos., said in a statement.
If the modern retailer is defined as the grocer that seamlessly blends the in-store and online experiences to meet consumers wherever and whenever they shop, how does the Albertsons/Google partnership further this vision? To learn more, WGB recently connected with Google’s Cynthia Horiguchi.
Jennifer Strailey: The Google/Albertsons partnership will allow for some cool, shopper-friendly opportunities like shoppable maps, predictive list building and integrated search maps. How will these technologies change the in-store experience?
Cynthia Horiguchi: Customers are now beginning to discover new and dynamic shopping journeys that bridge Albertsons Cos. and Google. We are integrated with surfaces like Google Local Actions (Maps), Gpay, and cutting-edge technologies like Retail AI and Vision AI. For the customer, this means they can more easily begin their shopping journey whenever and wherever it is most convenient. All of our efforts have a hyperlocal focus to increase the connection between a shopper and the store in their community. We are just scratching the surface on using technology to make grocery shopping easier, enhancing in-store experiences with digital ones.
How will this partnership help Albertsons compete with grocers like Amazon Fresh, Walmart, etc.?
We’re bringing together Google’s breadth of technical experience with Albertsons’ customer-focused mindset and national network of stores within local neighborhoods. It is a powerful combination that will bring shoppers the most convenient and exciting shopping experience, directly from the tools they interact with daily. We believe it is no longer enough to simply keep pace with changing customer preferences and what the competition is doing. Instead, we need to look ahead and design the winning customer experience of the future, and this partnership will enable us to do that.
Albertsons shoppers will now be able to use Google Maps to find a store, as well as find a store with pickup and delivery. How is this an enhanced service as compared to what users can do now by searching for supermarkets or grocery delivery "near me"?
In the last year, Google Maps searches for “curbside pickup” increased nearly 9,000%, and we’re making these searches less informational and more actionable. Instead of just using Google Search for information gathering, like how many miles they are from the closest Albertsons store, this new integration enables shoppers to get additional information upfront—like pickup and delivery availability and if there are any fees or order minimums—and click through to online ordering options directly from Google. By removing the extra steps from searching for mobile ordering and actually completing the order, we’re helping shoppers get what they need quickly, while keeping CDC guidelines a priority.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about how grocers can build upon the pandemic-driven surge in sales (both in-store and online) in a post-pandemic world. Do you see this partnership strengthening Albertsons’ competitive advantage moving out of COVID, and if so, how?
In many ways, the pandemic was a catalyst for innovation. Google and Albertsons held a joint virtual innovation day in April 2020, in which hundreds of ideas were distilled into a mission to redefine how people shop. Since then, we have been experimenting with new experiences and shopping journeys that have begun to make an impact. This is setting the stage for a sustained post-pandemic transformation and momentum that will bring shoppers even more ways to get all their grocery needs online or in-store. By combining the grocery shopping ecosystem of Albertsons and the AI, technology and platforms of Google, we can understand customer needs—whether it’s amid a global pandemic or prepping for the busy holiday season—and build disruptive grocery shopping experiences at scale.
This partnership seems advantageous for Albertsons. What’s in it for Google?
The pandemic put a spotlight on the need for cloud technology in order to support all the ways in which grocery shopping can be made easier for customers. Google’s mission is to be a transformational partner for grocers, helping them to grow their customer base, offer unique experiences at every stage of the shopping journey, and this partnership is an excellent example. In bringing together Google’s technology expertise with Albertsons’ commitment to customer-centric innovation, we’re providing customers with a superior shopping experience no matter how they choose to shop.