Kingfisher: building the future of home improvement with a powerful new data platform
CTO, Kingfisher Plc
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In retail, the distinction between physical and digital has blurred, and the home improvement sector is no exception. At Kingfisher, our retail banners include B&Q, Castorama, Brico Dépôt, and Screwfix, and our customers expect a seamless shopping experience whether they shop with us online or in store.
From product recommendations to delivery suggestions to location-based services, the technology required to meet these changing expectations is all powered by data. And to effectively deliver for our customers, that data needs to be highly available, highly accurate, and highly optimized. It needs to be gold standard.
In November 2022, we signed a five-year strategic partnership with Google Cloud to accelerate the migration of our huge on-premises SAP workloads to the cloud. By moving away from a tightly coupled, monolithic architecture, our goal was to improve our resilience and strengthen our data platform to unleash the full potential of our data, giving us the resilience and agility we need to power our growth.
The right platform — and people — to help us do it ourselves
Data speed and quality are critical to helping us achieve our goals, with data platforms, recommendation engines, sophisticated machine learning, and the ability to quickly ingest and curate content, all key to our future plans. Partnering with Google Cloud helps us to unlock this potential, with Google Cloud Marketplace also offering a critical capability to help us simplify procurement.
One of the most important factors in our decision to partner with Google Cloud was the expertise. Google Cloud not only brings a specific set of functionality and services that are well suited to our needs, but a team of people behind those solutions who understand our industry. They know our needs and goals, and can help us work through our challenges. And as we continue to migrate our workloads and build our architecture, the Google Cloud team is fully engaged, working closely with us in a meeting of minds.
Unleashing data’s potential to meet customer expectations
This partnership has already started to deliver results. By abstracting the data away from our core platform, we are now able to use it more productively for our business needs, and we’re currently working on some use cases around supply chain visibility. One such project enables us to dynamically price products according to various live promotions, so that we can react to the market with more agility.
This is only possible because we’ve been able to separate the data from our SAP system and run it through Google Cloud solutions such as BigQuery and Cloud Storage, enabling us to provide a more personalized shopping experience. Plans are now underway to use our product and sales data to create a new, real-time order system to greatly improve stock accuracy, as well as scaling up B&Q’s online marketplace from 700,000 products to 4 million (Kingfisher’s H1 2023/23 Financial Results).
Facing the future with a solid foundation
The future of digital retail is highly compute-intensive, requiring a level of real-time data processing near equivalent to that needed to power a major stock market. Working with Google Cloud gives us the processing power to use our data to its full potential, freeing us to focus on what we do best: offering the best home improvement proposition to our customers.
The growing suite of AI solutions in Google Cloud adds another dimension to our ability to leverage data, which will be increasingly important to enhancing the customer experience. Vertex AI, for example, is already allowing us to optimize our product pages, so that customers can visualize products in different scenarios and make a more informed purchasing decision. Throughout the business, AI is improving and speeding up our internal processes, which ultimately allows us to better serve our customers.
It’s no secret the retail industry is evolving at pace. With Google Cloud, we now have the agility, the support, and the data platform to create more seamless customer experiences both in stores and online.