Sainsburys Microsoft AI

Source: Sainsbury’s

The tech would free up store staff to better serve customers, Sainsbury’s said

Sainsbury’s has announced a new partnership with Microsoft, which will see it enhance its AI capabilities.

The new five-year partnership would enable Sainsbury’s to use Microsoft’s AI and machine learning tools, combined with the supermarket’s growing pool of data, to improve store operations and provide a more efficient service for customers.

The investment will focus on three core areas.

The first is availability in stores, as the new technology would give store workers access to real time data, helping them to improve replenishment of shelves. In effect the AI would be able to pull together multiple streams of data, including from shelf-edge cameras, more efficiently, which would then indicate to colleagues areas that were running low. A knock-on effect would be improved customer service, as it would free up store colleagues to help customers, Sainsbury’s said.

Customers would also see an “improved search experience” while shopping online with Sainsbury’s. Through the use of generative AI, searchability will improve, making shopping “more efficient and engaging,” Sainsbury’s said.

Finally, it will see Microsoft’s Azure software integrated with Sainsbury’s existing cloud infrastructure, enabling “better collaboration” across the business and making it easier to integrate new functions in the future.

“Our collaboration with Microsoft will accelerate our ambition to become the UK’s leading AI-enabled grocer,” said Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s chief retail and technology officer.

“It’s one of the key ways we’re investing in transforming our capabilities over the next three years, enabling us to take another big leap forward in efficiency and productivity, continue to provide leading customer service and deliver returns for our shareholders.”

Like other supermarkets, Sainsbury’s has been increasingly investing in AI and automation across its supply chain as part of its Next Level strategy unveiled in February. It’s included the rollout of AI forecasting technology, which CEO Simon Roberts has credited for having improved both Sainsbury’s availability and reducing food waste.

“We have millions of transactions everyday, we have huge numbers of decisions that happen on things like forecasting, pricing supply chains and logistics. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can make a huge difference to speed an efficiency in which those decisions happen,” he said at the time.

“We’re in the early foothills of this and there’s a lot more that we think we can do,” he added.