Just as Amazon expands its brick-and-mortar grocery store footprint, Google and grocer Albertsons Companies announced a multi-year partnership that would digitalize the grocery shopping experience for millions of American shoppers.
“Albertsons Cos. is continuing to transform into a modern retailer fit for the future, and we are leading the industry forward by providing the easiest and most exciting shopping experience for our customers,” Chris Rupp, EVP and Chief Customer & Digital Officer of Albertsons Companies said in a statement. “In bringing together Google’s technology expertise with our commitment to customer-centric innovation, we’re providing our customers with a superior shopping experience no matter how they choose to shop with us.”
The deal is significant for Google, as it looks to reach profitability in its growing cloud business, with growth largely driven by high-profile customers. Albertsons Companies is the #2 grocer in the U.S. by store count with 2,253 stores, behind Kroger’s 2,750. Albertsons operates more than 20 different grocery brands, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Jewel-Osco.
According to a release published by the companies, Albertsons and Vons began working together at the height of the pandemic, through a virtually-held joint innovation day. The companies looked for ways to improve services for grocery shoppers. At least one of those initiatives has already rolled out: a new tool that offers helpful information about online ordering from Albertsons’ stores within mobile search.
Google hopes to integrate its Cloud AI technologies, including Vision AI, Recommendations AI and Business Messages, into the grocery chain’s operations, in a big to create “ the world’s most predictive grocery engine.” Albertsons and Google are also working on integrating Google Search and Maps to make it easier for grocery shoppers to find products within the store and integrate Google Pay into payment terminals.
Albertsons and Google have heavy competition from Amazon. The e-commerce giant recently started opening its own brick-and-mortar grocery stores under the “Amazon Fresh” banner. At least 28 additional Amazon Fresh stores are in the works, along with the 350 Whole Foods Market locations Amazon continues to operate. While Amazon’s store count is still dwarfed by Albertsons, Amazon’s massive cash reserves and an onslaught of vacant retail space make it a direct threat to the grocery giant.
Amazon has revolutionized the grocery shopping experience for its customers, offering expanded grocery delivery and curbside pickup services. Amazon Fresh stores even offer an Alexa-powered cart, which allows shoppers to skip the checkout line and view their saved grocery list from their Amazon account. Amazon Fresh stores also feature modified Echo Show tablets throughout the store that make it easier for shoppers to find the items they are looking for.
The companies plan to soon roll out the new shoppable maps and predictive grocery list building, but did not offer a timeline when they would be offered at the chain’s 2,253 stores. Albertsons has already rolled out Google’s AI-powered Business Messages in a limited capacity, offering shoppers information about COVID-19 vaccines.