Google Cloud is taking on Amazon by moving into retail, and it's a first step in new CEO Thomas Kurian's master plan

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Part of new CEO Thomas Kurian’s master plan for Google Cloud to improve its enterprise chops is to target specific industries, and now he’s taken a first step in that direction.

On Wednesday, Google announced Google Cloud for Retail, a platform with tools meant to help retailers with predicting sales, recommending products with the help of artificial intelligence, and more. It’s partnering with customers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Shopify, and Target – retailers that also compete with Amazon.

At a press briefing, Google Cloud engineers said it’s the first time Google Cloud was launching an AI product to address a business process for a specific vertical.

Kurian also emphasised that Google Cloud was building capabilities to help companies in specific industries, such as healthcare, media, financial services, retail, and manufacturing.

“Our work in these industries would not be complete if we didn’t build our enterprise capability,” Kurian said onstage Tuesday at Google Cloud’s annual conference. “We at Google Cloud want to be the best partner. We believe we can do that in two important ways. The first way is bringing expertise to help you on that journey. The second is to be the easiest cloud provider to do business with.”

New features

Google Cloud for Retail will include hosting capabilities, which can help during peak traffic times like Black Friday, as well as increased support for peak times. This is important because if a website crashes during Black Friday, it can hurt a company’s revenue and brand.

In addition, it will include real-time inventory management and analytics capabilities to give retailers data on which products are in stock.

There are also search capabilities, including a mobile-phone feature allowing customers to take photos or screenshots of products they like and use them to search for similar items sold by a retailer. Finally, it will include product recommendations intended to help retailers deliver personalised recommendations to customers, based on their online behaviour.


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“As you know, retail is in the midst of major transformation,” Ratnakar Lavu, a senior executive vice president and chief technology officer of Kohl’s, said onstage on Tuesday. “As a retailer, we needed to innovate. We also needed to become more engineering focus. And guess what, Google has that same DNA.”

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