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Coles’ new weapon in the supermarket war: Artificial intelligence

Coles is trialling artificial intelligence. Images: Getty, Coles
Coles is trialling artificial intelligence. Images: Getty, Coles

Coles has signed a partnership with Microsoft which will see the supermarket giant employ artificial intelligence (AI) technology to reduce employee tasks and target customers.

According to Coles, the partnership will see cloud-based technology used to minimise tasks like price markdowns for staff, and innovate to attract customers.

Coles will use Microsoft Azure cloud technology under the partnership, which it claims will boost efficiency and simplicity.

“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.”

What will the artificial intelligence do?

The AI will tap into customer insights to inform Coles’ decisions around its product range and how customers like to shop. It will obtain this data from customer transactions, flybuys and its own private research.

Additionally, the AI tech will “transform” how staff work in store, including by removing manual and repetitive jobs like price markdowns and stock management.

And Microsoft technology will also be used to streamline Coles Express and meat manufacturing businesses.

The partnership follows Coles decision to join with warehouse logistics firm, Witron, in 2018 to modernise Coles’ supply chain.

“Coles is committed to improving efficiency and stock availability in stores and delivering higher service levels for our customers,” Coles managing director Steven Cain said at the time.

“The investment we are making in this technology is expected to lower supply chain costs, provide safer working environments and enhance our business competitiveness.”

And earlier this year, Coles partnered with online supermarket company Ocado to double its home delivery capacity.

The $150 million deal saw Coles agree to pay Ocado to provide equipment at new automated warehouses and delivery centres around Sydney and Melbourne.

“The partnership provides a unique opportunity for Coles to deliver a best-in- class customer experience,” Coles said at the time.

“Coles will be better able to meet the increasing demands of its customers as it increases network capacity at a lower cost to serve.”

Technology is the new frontier for many Australian supermarkets, with Coles rival Woolworths announcing in late June that it would extend its trial of scan-and-go technology.

This technology allows shoppers to skip the check-out queue by having shoppers scan groceries on their phone.

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