Sainsbury's and Google - unexpected cloud platform in bagging area

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan October 3, 2019
Sainsbury's wants to understand better what it is that customers want to eat and puts GCP on the menu.


UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is chasing deeper customer insights into  “trends driving [consumer] eating habits” using Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in what is a nice win for the cloud provider on Amazon's turf.

Sainsbury’s, which has been in business for 150 years, runs 1,400 shops across the UK. Its business interests include high-street brands, such as its supermarket chain, Habitat, Argos and Sainsbury’s Bank. With the UK grocery market increasingly competitive with new low cost entrants such as Aldi and Lidl taking on established players, responding to customer tastes is critical.

With that in mind, Sainsbury’s commercial and technology teams are working with Accenture to develop predictive analytics models and machine learning processes that enable the retailer to adjust inventory levels and selection based on trend.

In a blog post,  Alan Coad, Managing Director of Google Cloud in the UK and Ireland, pitches the project:

Sainsbury’s solution relies on data from multiple structured and unstructured sources. Using Google Cloud’s powerful cloud-based analytics tools to ingest, clean and classify that data, and a custom-built front-end interface for internal users to seamlessly navigate through a variety of filters and categories, Sainsbury’s is able to gain advanced insights in real time.

And Phil Jordan, Group CIO of Sainsbury’s, adds:

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.


Sainsbury’s is a good logo for GCP to pick up as the retailer has previously made a significant investment in AWS, to the extent that Jordan was one of the keynote customer speakers at the recent AWS Summit in London to showcase how it was using the platform to modernise its online groceries operation:

Our relationship with AWS really kicked off at the point we decided to take our groceries online business and rebuild it in the cloud. This was effectively taking a WebSphere e-commerce monolith with an Oracle RAC database, and moving it, and modularising it, and putting it into AWS.

That movement of RAC to RDS and that big database migration was all done using AWS services, and now we have a fully fledged cloud-native-ish service that runs groceries online across all of our business. Today, we run about 80% of our groceries online with EC2, and 20%  is serverless.

What makes the GCP selection additionally interesting is that in the US, a number of retailers have been jumping ship from AWS since Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods turned their cloud platform provider into a grocery industry competitor. For example, both Target and Walmart have bet the farm on Microsoft Azure rather than sticking with AWS.

The Walmart decision is the most notable with the retailer signing a five year “strategic partnership” with Microsoft to tap into “the full range of cloud solutions”. In the first instance, that involves migrating a “significant portion of the firm’s online businesses - and - to Azure before then tackling the shift-over of hundreds of existing applications.

For its part, Google also has big retail ambitions. Last year, French conglomerate Carrefour signed up to an online grocery gambit with the firm, making it the first retailer in the country to team up with the tech firm. At the time, Carrefour CEO Alexandre Bompard, said:

This alliance makes Carrefour the first partner of Google on grocery e-commerce in Europe, creating a strong bond between the two companies. It also marks an important step in the new story written by Carrefour since the announcement of the Carrefour 2022 plan. It allows us to accelerate our digital evolution and get a head start in deploying the omni-channel approach we want to offer our customers.

My take

Sainsbury’s has always been a data hungry retailer as we’ve noted on multiple occasions. See, for example, Sainsbury's 'Guttenberg moment' - applying data science to bolster customer service levels or Sainsbury’s has an appetite for data analytics. This GCP/Accenture project is the latest manifestation of that. As for the ongoing GCP/AWS war for retail attention, score one for the former parking its tanks on the lawn of latter…

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