Coles turns to AI, announces ‘strategic partnership’ with Microsoft

Azure will become Coles’ cloud platform of choice, the retailer has announced.

Coles chief information and digital officer Roger Sniezek

Coles chief information and digital officer Roger Sniezek

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft's Azure will become Coles’ ‘cloud platform of choice’ as part of a strategic partnership between the tech company and the supermarket chain.

Coles revealed details of the alliance today, saying that it planned to migrate its applications to Microsoft’s cloud platform as part of an effort to drive “simplicity and efficiency”.

The retailer said it is building an enterprise data platform in Azure that will enable the use of AI technology to optimise its stores and supply chain.

“The use of Azure AI services will bolster Coles’ 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,” a statement from the company said. “These decisions will be based on deeper data analysis from its proprietary research, flybuys and customer transactions.”

An in-store component of its ‘Smarter Selling’ strategy is giving employees access to tools that will help minimise repetitive, manual tasks, such as stock management and price markdowns.

Coles said it was turning to Microsoft Dynamics 365 as an ERP platform for its Coles Express outlets and meat manufacturing businesses.

Another component of the alliance is the rollout of Office 365 and Microsoft training support for the Coles’ tech team.

“To ensure that all these transformational initiatives can be delivered at pace, Microsoft will provide direct executive support from its global product functions,” Coles said.

“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,” Coles chief information and digital officer Roger Sniezek 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.”

“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,” the CIDO said.

Coles in March this year revealed that it planned to roll out a new online ordering and delivery platform. The supermarket operator said that it planned to implement the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) for online grocery ordering, single-pick fulfilment and home delivery by the end of the 2023 financial year.

In February, the company, which has more than 800 supermarkets and more than 700 Coles Express sites, said it would implement SAP’s S/4HANA ERP platform as part of efforts to optimise its operations. Coles is also implementing SAP’s SuccessFactors HR platform and Ariba procurement platform. Coles was originally part of Wesfarmers but was spun out by the group and listed on the ASX in November.

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