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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Google Cloud Unveils Advanced AI for Global Retail

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Practical and powerful tools help retailers fuel growth and evolve customer experiences.

Ahead of NRF 2024, the retail industry’s largest event, Google Cloud debuted several new AI and generative AI-powered technologies to help retailers personalize online shopping, modernize operations, and transform in-store technology rollouts.

Retailers today are considering new tools to make their operations more efficient while creating more personalized shopping experiences that consumers have come to expect. In fact, 81% of American retail decision-makers feel urgency to adopt generative AI, according to new research released today from Google Cloud.

“In only a year, generative AI has morphed from a barely recognized concept to one of the fastest-moving capabilities in all of technology and a critical part of many retailers’ agendas,” said Carrie Tharp, Vice President of Strategic Industries, Google Cloud. “With the ability to accelerate growth, boost efficiency, fuel innovation, and reduce toil, generative AI solutions are ready to be deployed now, and Google Cloud’s recent innovations can help retailers recognize value in 2024.”

New generative AI and large language model capabilities to create personalized and helpful online shopping experiences

Google Cloud’s new conversational commerce solution, announced today, can enable retailers to embed generative AI-powered virtual agents on their websites and mobile apps easily. Retailers can build virtual agents with helpful and nuanced conversations with shoppers using natural language and provide product options based on a shopper’s preferences. For example, a virtual agent can converse with a shopper looking for a formal dress for a wedding and provide personalized product options based on preferred colors, venue type, weather, matching accessories, and budget. Critically, retailers can deploy these advanced conversational AI agents in a couple of weeks versus months. This new solution can run on Google Cloud’s Vertex AI platform or be embedded into a retailer’s existing catalog management applications.

Google Cloud also introduced today a new LLM capability in Vertex AI Search for retail, a product that gives retailers Google-quality search, browse, and recommendations natively embedded on their digital storefronts. Qualified retailers will now be able to custom-tune an LLM to their unique product catalog and shopper search patterns, which can dramatically improve their ability to surface relevant products to customer queries by better ranking potential products as a fit for any given search term. For example, a U.S.-based home improvement retailer whose products are only described in English online could receive an LLM tuned for home improvement product searches in English and Spanish, providing more relevant product results to a wider range of consumers.

Generative AI solutions for transforming core retail operations: customer service and catalog management

Google Cloud’s new customer service modernization solution, announced today, can help retailers improve shoppers’ self-service and engagement. This offering integrates with a retailer’s existing customer relationship management (CRM) system, and with it, a retailer can deploy AI-based agents that can help with things like providing personalized product recommendations, scheduling appointments, or checking order statuses. It can also leverage Google Cloud’s advanced AI capabilities for language translation, helping personalize the customer service experience. In addition, retailers can use the solution to boost employee productivity with AI-powered summarizations of customer conversations, a single interface to consolidate internal information, and real-time responses for representatives based on knowledge across a retailer’s internal resources.

The customer service modernization solution can help retailers and brands transform their underlying voice and chat technology infrastructures. It allows retailers to simultaneously handle multiple customer engagement channels, like email, text, phone calls, and online chat, and pivot between them during customer service interactions. When combined with Google Cloud’s data warehouse, BigQuery, retailers can use this technology to synthesize shopper sentiment across sources like online reviews, social media posts, customer feedback, and chats with customer service representatives.

Google Cloud’s new catalog and content enrichment solution, also introduced today, can help simplify and accelerate product cataloging, a time-intensive and costly process for many retailers. This includes creating and analyzing product images and descriptive text and automatically generating content, like product descriptions, product meta-data, language tuned for search engine optimization (SEO), and more. For example, a merchandising team for a sporting goods store can use this solution to automatically bring their entire product catalog online for the first time with complete and accurate product descriptions.

Modernizing in-store technologies with a combined hardware and software offering

As retailers continue to invest in technology, they increasingly need to run software, like point-of-sale systems—as well as new AI and machine learning capabilities within these systems—with low-latency or intermittent internet connectivity at brick-and-mortar locations. In addition, many retailers want to extend the benefits of cloud-enabled applications into their retail locations at scale with high levels of data security.

Google Distributed Cloud Edge, Google Cloud’s fully managed hardware and software offering, now has a retailer-focused configuration to help brands deliver modern customer experiences with AI across thousands of locations with low or no internet connectivity. Retailers can save valuable IT resources with three small form-factor servers managed by Google Cloud and conveniently installed in any store. With this product in a store’s back room, retailers can gather comprehensive store analytics and streamline mission-critical store operations. 

The technology is also scalable, meaning retailers can keep an eye on rolling out next-generation applications, like AI-enabled solutions that power frictionless checkout experiences for shoppers or provide store associates visibility into the daily merchandise volume. Furthermore, Google Cloud provides, deploys, operates, and maintains the hardware so retailers can focus on serving their customers.

Learn more at NRF 2024

Google Cloud’s three new generative AI solutions for retailers are all cloud-native, service-based AI solutions available in the first quarter of 2024. The LLM capability in Vertex AI Search for retail is now available to qualified retailers in public preview, with general availability coming later this year. Google Distributed Cloud Edge for retailers will also be generally available in the first quarter of 2024. 

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