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Albertsons Taps Microsoft for ‘Frictionless’ Shopping Experience

Retailer piloting AI solutions with new One Touch Fuel app at 25 stores
Photograph: Shutterstock

Albertsons Cos. has partnered with Microsoft Corp. for its cloud and AI technologies to provide customers with “frictionless” omnichannel shopping experiences.

By integrating Microsoft’s Azure, Azure AI and Azure Cognitive Services into Albertsons’ stores and digital platforms, the companies said they aim to digitally transform the customer journey, optimize operations and deliver better products and services.

Albertsons is currently piloting the new solutions in 25 stores across five divisions with its new One Touch Fuel app, which is designed to eliminate the hassle of prompts at the gas pump. Using Microsoft Azure and geofencing, the app allows customers to pay for fuel, claim their rewards and activate the pump, saving an average of at least 90 seconds during a fuel-up.

With the pilot results exceeding expectations, according to the companies, Albertsons plans to introduce One Touch Fuel to additional locations throughout the year.

“We are reimagining the future to serve customers in a way they want to interact with us across all channels,” Albertsons EVP and CIO Anuj Dhanda said in a statement. “Our partnership has already produced an innovative way to save time at the gas pump. Microsoft’s strengths in cognitive technologies, artificial intelligence and data science applied at scale at Albertsons Cos. will transform the customer experience in our stores and digitally.”

The companies said Microsoft’s cloud and AI-based solutions are designed to eliminate friction points within the shopping experience, such as not finding a desired product, long wait times at service counters and, particularly, checkout lines—suggesting the new partnership may lead to cashierless checkout at Albertsons stores. The solutions can also help anticipate out-of-stocks and misplaced products.

“Customers today have endless choices when it comes to where they shop for groceries, gas and everything in between,” Shelley Bransten, corporate VP of worldwide retail and consumer goods for Microsoft, said in a statement. “We're excited about the unique experiences that Azure and Azure AI are enabling for Albertsons Cos. that will allow it to build loyalty in this fiercely competitive market.”

The Kroger Co. also recently partnered with Microsoft to create a “connected” store experience by employing internet of things sensors to create a retail as a service experience. The retailer is implementing the smart system in two pilot stores in Monroe, Ohio, and Redmond, Wash., with plans to market to the rest of the industry.  

Further, Albertsons has moved its e-commerce sites and loyalty apps to Microsoft Azure and plans to build its data science and analytics on the platform, which the retailer said will provide additional insight into its data and allow store managers to use predictive scenarios to anticipate and act on revenue-driving opportunities.

In addition, the retailer is integrating Microsoft 365 for employees across its corporate offices and offers its online Retail Portal for store associates to access real-time information about specials, promotions and product recalls.

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