Sainsbury's taps Google Cloud for trends insights

Sainsbury’s commercial and technology teams are working with Accenture to implement machine learning processes that they say are providing the retailer with better insight into consumer behaviour.

Using the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), the key aim of the collaboration is to generate new insights on what consumers want and the trends driving their eating habits.

By tapping into data from multiple structured and unstructured sources, the supermarket chain has developed predictive analytics models that it uses to adjust inventory based on the trends it spots.

According to Alan Coad, managing director of Google Cloud in the UK and Ireland, the platform can “ingest, clean and classify that data”, while a custom-built front-end interface for staff can be used “to seamlessly navigate through a variety of filters and categories” to generate the relevant insights.

Phil Jordan, group CIO of Sainsbury’s, said: “The grocery market continues to change rapidly.

“We know our customers want high quality at great value and that finding innovative and distinctive products is increasingly important to them. With the help of GCP, we are generating new insights into how the world eats and lives.”

Coad added: “The food industry and the way that customers shop is rapidly changing.

“From foodie hashtags on Instagram, to the latest cooking fads, customers want to stay connected to the latest trends and Sainsbury’s is empowering them do that.”

A comment piece published on Essential Retail earlier this week, from Robert Jones, head of new thinking at brand consultancy Wolff Olins, suggests Sainsbury’s used to be the benchmark of UK grocery in terms of market share and own brand reputation. But recent trading figures suggest first-half profit at the business could be down by as much as £50 million as it continues to close Argos stores and embed the general merchandise arm into its wider estate.

Jones said there is an opportunity, though, for the company to lead again when it comes to meeting modern consumer demands.

“Our eating habits are one of the main causes of the climate crisis,” he wrote.

“Can Sainsbury’s lead us – rapidly, and on a massive scale – into a step-change in plant-based food, in low air miles, in zero packaging? Even more broadly, into consuming more wisely, even consuming less?”

Seemingly, it is this type of consumer behaviour insight the retailer’s work with Google and Accenture will generate.

Sainsbury's announced this week that Argos CEO, John Rogers, will be leaving at the end of the month to become chief financial officer at media group WPP.