In a recent blog post, Ulta Beauty’s senior cloud architect, Michael Alderson, outlined the company’s approach toward building a digital store strategy: transformational, digital touchpoints that deliver a redesigned, highly personalized, and compelling e-commerce experience.
The company has been working with Google Cloud to achieve its goals since 2019, scaling a modern, containerized platform to support expedited app development, reduce operational stress, and elevate its e-commerce experience.
The challenge: Bottlenecks in upgrading features and capabilities across e-commerce
The solution: Interconnected microservices that can scale independently
Find a new way to create and manage infrastructure
Analyze productivity impact to configure cloud “landing zones”
Determine how service mesh plays a role in managing large fleets of containerized microservices at scale
Use built-in metrics to auto-scale and auto-heal for a better guest experience
Eliminate the need for third-party services (Alderson said the company has saved several hundred thousand dollars in additional licensing fees by using the platform’s built-in traffic routing.)
The results: The Ulta Beauty IT team could create, manage, optimize, and secure container platforms for developers in record time.
“We can better quantify guest experiences because we see errors, reporting, and where we haven’t gotten it right yet. It enables our software development and release processes (DevOps) to mature, leading to better business choices and better guest experiences,” said Alderson in the post.
Over the next year, Ulta will be leveraging the tech’s multi-region capabilities to improve application availability and disaster recovery.
Kroger To Deploy Autonomous Box Trucks To Handle Dallas Middle Mile
Kroger has entered a multi-year commercial collaboration with Gatik, under which the autonomous middle mile logistics company will transport customer orders within Kroger’s Dallas distribution network.
Gatik’s medium-duty autonomous box trucks will transport fresh products from a Kroger Customer Fulfillment Center (CFC) in Dallas, TX, to multiple Kroger retail locations. Gatik’s autonomous trucks each feature a cold chain-capable 20’ foot box designed to transport ambient, refrigerated, and frozen goods.
The collaboration involves consistent, repeated delivery runs multiple times per day, seven days per week across Kroger’s Dallas distribution network. Operations will launch in Q2, 2023.
“We are so excited to see Gatik trucks starting to deliver groceries throughout our Dallas division,” said Raúl Bujalil, VP supply chain strategy and technology enablers. “These autonomous box trucks will help us continue our commitment to creating a seamless shopping experience - where customers can access their favorite fresh foods, with zero compromise on value or convenience.”
“Kroger’s commitment to redefining service levels for its customers through innovative technology meant that our collaboration came together very quickly,” said Gautam Narang, co-founder and CEO, Gatik. “We’re deeply familiar with operating our autonomous fleet within the Dallas ecosystem, and we’re very excited to bring that experience to support Kroger in its mission to reshape the future of goods delivery.”
Since launching commercial operations in 2019, Gatik has delivered half a million customer orders, leveraging its commercial-grade autonomous technology to transport freight safely and efficiently on the middle mile. Gatik provides Autonomous Transportation as a Service (ATaaS) daily for customers across multiple markets including Arkansas and Ontario, and is continuing to densify its commercial presence in the state of Texas.
Mattress company Raymour & Flanigan is building out its digital warehouse capabilities, investing in a new solution to help drive greater efficiency and reduce reliance on manual processes across the enterprise.
The retailer has partnered with Körber to support the project and make the necessary upgrades. The initiative will streamline supply chain processes, increase forecasting accuracy, and implement more sophisticated WMS and software systems.
The retailer also says that digitizing warehouse functions will speed up the rate at which it can respond to customer inquiries and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.
The furniture retailer also said it predicts the investment will help free up associates for more value-added tasks, such as spending time with customers. “Körber will help our associates do their jobs even more efficiently, enabling them to spend more time building customer connections,” said Bryan Anastasi, vice president of customer care and business solutions at Raymour & Flanigan, in a statement.
Founded in 1947, Raymour & Flanigan is now the largest furniture and mattress retailer in the Northeast and the seventh largest nationwide. As a result of this strong growth trajectory, the company has made a number of tech investments in recent months. Back in November, for example, the furniture retailer partnered with Oracle NetSuite to implement its new ERP system and gain greater visibility across the business.
Salesforce Launches ‘World’s First’ Generative AI for CRM: Einstein GPT
Salesforce has launched Einstein GPT, which it claims is the “world’s first generative AI CRM technology.”
Einstein GPT, aims to transform every customer experience with generative artificial intelligence (AI). The technology delivers AI-created content across every sales, service, marketing, commerce, and IT interaction, at hyperscale.
Einstein GPT will infuse Salesforce’s proprietary AI models with generative AI technology from an ecosystem of partners and real-time data from the Salesforce Data Cloud, which ingests and unifies all of a company’s customer data. With Einstein GPT, customers can then connect that data to OpenAI’s advanced AI models out of the box, or choose their own external model and use natural-language prompts directly within their Salesforce CRM to generate content that continuously adapts to changing customer information and needs in real time.
For example, Einstein GPT can generate personalized emails for salespeople to send to customers, generate specific responses for customer service professionals to answer customer questions, generate targeted content for marketers to increase campaign response rates, and auto-generate code for developers.
“The world is experiencing one of the most profound technological shifts with the rise of real-time technologies and generative AI,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. “This comes at a pivotal moment as every company is focused on connecting with their customers in more intelligent, automated, and personalized ways. Einstein GPT, in combination with our Data Cloud and integrated in all of our clouds as well as Tableau, MuleSoft, and Slack, is another way we are opening the door to the AI future for all our customers, and we’ll be integrating with OpenAI at launch.”
Salesforce is combining OpenAI’s enterprise-grade ChatGPT technology with Salesforce’s private AI models to deliver AI-generated content.
“We’re excited to apply the power of OpenAI’s technology to CRM,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. “This will allow more people to benefit from this technology, and it allows us to learn more about real-world usage, which is critical to the responsible development and deployment of AI — a belief that Salesforce shares with us.”
Launching today are:
Einstein GPT for Sales: Auto-generate sales tasks like composing emails, scheduling meetings, and preparing for the next interaction.
Einstein GPT for Service: Generate knowledge articles from past case notes. Auto-generate personalized agent chat replies to increase customer satisfaction through personalized and expedited service interactions.
Einstein GPT for Marketing: Dynamically generate personalized content to engage customers and prospects across email, mobile, web, and advertising.
Einstein GPT for Slack Customer 360 apps: Deliver AI-powered customer insights in Slack like smart summaries of sales opportunities and surface end users actions like updating knowledge articles.
Einstein GPT for Developers: Improve developer productivity with Salesforce Research’s proprietary large language model by using an AI chat assistant to generate code and ask questions for languages like Apex.
Salesforce also announced a Generative AI Fund from Salesforce Ventures, the company’s global investment arm. The new $250 million fund will invest in high-potential startups, bolster the startup ecosystem, and spark the development of responsible, trusted, and generative AI.
Amazon Business Launches 3-Way Match for Mobile App
Amazon Business announced the launch of 3-Way Match on the Amazon Business mobile app to help business customers automate reporting, taking the old desktop or handheld scanner reporting to the app.
Now available in the U.S., the new 3-Way Match app enables account administrators and approved buyers to use a mobile device to simply scan the barcode of a package when it arrives and automatically mark the item as received. With this new feature, the nearly 1 million active users on the Amazon Business mobile app in the U.S. have a faster way to close purchase orders.
Amazon Business helps businesses digitize and automate procurement with management controls and analytic tools. Among those tools is 3-Way Match, a common accounting control to ensure that a business’ purchase payments are received, accurate, and complete. Until now, it was cumbersome to use because it was only available on desktop or via handheld scanners. The mobile version adds the extra flexibility of being able to complete a 3-Way Match in real-time from anywhere. A successful 3-Way Match includes matching and verifying the purchase order, the invoice, and the receipt before a payment is made.
“Manual processes cannot be scaled efficiently, especially for large organizations,” said Doug Gray, vice president of technology at Amazon Business. “Integrating our 3-Way Match capability on the Amazon Business mobile app simplifies the process so customers can reconcile their purchases in seconds. At Amazon, we’re driven to find better ways for our customers to work, and our 3-Way Match mobile scan does just that.”
With 3-Way Match, accounts payable and procurement teams can protect their organization from paying for incorrect invoices, items not yet received, or fraudulent purchases. This helps businesses of all sizes improve efficiency and reporting capabilities while also reducing time spent on manual data entry and avoiding payment for damaged or incorrect packages.
Kroger is doubling down on efforts to retain hard-to-find frontline retail staff, announcing a significant financial investment to increase hourly wages, open up learning opportunities, and broaden access to healthcare options.
The company has steadily been making investments and wage increases for several years now, and this latest round of financing will build on the $1.9 billion the retailer has put towards benefits and salaries since 2018. Four years ago, Kroger hiked their average hourly rate to $18 or $23.50 per hour with benefits.
Over the years, the company has laid out a range of other perks for frontline associates, including an educational program that offers workers up to $21,000 toward continuing education opportunities, free financial coaching, and access to counseling services.
“Investing in our associates' holistic well-being is an essential part of what makes Kroger an employer of choice, and ultimately becomes an investment in our customers and communities," said Tim Massa, Kroger's SVP and chief people officer. “When we think about how we build our benefits, we want to enable every associate to thrive financially and emotionally – both in their careers and at home. We look forward to continuing to celebrate our associates and the many ways they show up for our customers and each other every day.”
The grocer has made significant efforts to increase their workforce investments this year. In January, Kroger announced plans to elevate store leadership and associate experience, taping into machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics to improve real-time operational decisions.
Specifically designed to assist night crews, the retailer tapped Google and Deloitte to roll out task management cloud technology across its 2,800 with a view to increasing visibility into merchandising, store staffing information, and stocking needs.