NCR and Google Cloud are helping grocers rapidly reinvent the retail experience
Senior Director of Global Sales Engineering, NCR Retail
Head of Retail Industry Partnerships, Google Cloud
In recent years, the grocery industry has had to shift to facilitate a wider variety of checkout journeys for customers. This has meant ensuring a richer transaction mix, including mobile shopping, online shopping, in-store checkout, cashierless checkout or any combination thereof like buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS).
What’s more, in the past year and a half alone grocers have had to enable consumers new ways to shop for essentials. This has included needing to rapidly integrate or build on-demand delivery apps, offer curbside pickup with near-instant fulfillment as well as support touchless and cashless checkout experiences. Searches on Google Maps for retailers in the US with curbside pickup options have increased by 9000% since March 2020, and we believe these trends from 2020 will continue to define the future of grocery shopping.
The future of grocery will require agility and openness
Firstly, the need to rapidly adapt to changing consumer habits will be the new normal. Grocers will increasingly look to digitally transform legacy retail systems and modernize point of sale (POS) platforms to deliver and scale omnichannel experiences as quickly as possible. This necessitates a more agile and open architectural approach to technology - one built on microservices and leverages APIs so that new applications and experiences can be built, integrated and delivered faster.
Automation and data-driven retailing will be table stakes
In order for retailers to blend what they’re offering in the store with digital experiences more efficiently, they will also need to automate more. For example, with automation and business intelligence, grocers can take labor that might have been tied up with tender operations and checkout and redistribute those resources to restocking shelves, curbside pick-up or improving customer experiences.
Automation and access to real-time in-store inventory & supply chain data can also help grocers avoid the supply chain challenges seen in the early days of COVID-19. Grocers will need to find ways to leverage automation to ingest, organize, and analyze data from physical store networks, digital channels, distribution centers to better forecast demand and manage future fluctuations.
How NCR and Google Cloud are helping grocers adapt to disruption with operational agility
Helping grocers improve operational agility to address changing consumer shopping habits and to thrive during times of disruption is something that NCR and Google Cloud have teamed up to do. NCR has over 135 years of experience in retail, having invented the cash register and are continuing to help grocers innovate. NCR Emerald builds upon the company’s leadership in POS software and has turned it into a unified platform that helps grocers operate the entire store from front to back. The solution supports cashier-led checkout, self-checkout, integrated payments, merchandising, and enables regional managers and corporate employees access to the analytics and tools needed to optimize loyalty programs and promotions.
NCR has invested in a comprehensive, agile, and API-led retail architecture that lets grocers continually innovate and design new experiences as customers and the industry evolve. By running Emerald on Google Cloud, NCR can offer the solution on a subscription basis, helping grocers lower upfront capital expenditures and ensuring scalability. What’s more, NCR can tap into Google Cloud’s strength in data, analytics, and openness to deliver three key imperatives. Let’s take a look at each of these below.
Run the way grocers need to while leveraging Google Cloud as a single source of logic
Traditionally the POS system lived in the store. If disaster strikes, people still need access to food and essentials so the grocery store still needs to operate. It hardly gets more mission-critical than that. NCR Emerald is built on microservices, leveraging Kubernetes for front-of-house compute, and VMs (See graphic 1 below). This makes it easy to support lightweight clients accessible by store employees via any range of mobile devices, computer terminals, self-service kiosks, peripheral devices like receipt printers as well as legacy applications.
What’s unique is that because Emerald runs on Google Cloud, it supports all those in-store and digital touchpoints mentioned above, but also allows grocers to run lean. Emerald leverages Google Cloud as a single source of truth and operates a lot of what it does out of logic. Every sales transaction coming from every channel, including e-commerce, can be logged via NCR’s Hosted Service and centralized in BigQuery and Bigtable as a transaction data master. This enables the grocer to manage any transactional use case very consistently, whether it e supporting customers who want to purchase in one store and return in another, offering digital receipts or the ability to exchange online purchases in store. Emerald on Google Cloud can help retailers extend capabilities through the power of the cloud but not need to live exclusively in the cloud. In other words, the solution allows grocers the ability to run the way they need to.
Enable data-driven and real-time decision making for grocers
Store managers, regional managers, category managers, and others all require different cuts of the data to do their jobs effectively. However, data silos persist and how data is formatted and arranged can still remain pretty static. Therefore allowing users with different roles the ability to view and analyze that data quickly and in different ways continues to be a challenge.
As mentioned above, Emerald leverages Google Cloud data management solutions as the central repository for transactional, behavioral, and merchandising data. Every transaction from every store and every channel can be stored via NCR Hosted Service on BigQuery and Bigtable. NCR Analytics then harnesses the advanced analytical and data visualization capabilities of Looker to help grocers get a consolidated view of their business across all channels and then allow employees to slice and dice the data they way they need to. NCR Analytics also leverages the power of Google Cloud AI and machine learning to add another level of intelligence to the retailer’s data. For example, store managers can visualize how well they’re using their real estate and see how productive lanes 1-3 are compared with 7-10 or compare self-service versus manned lanes. By mapping to the retailer’s own catalog, they can also break down category-level performance and trends.
NCR Analytics takes advantage of Google Cloud’s data pipeline to reduce processing time, with scaling and resource management provided out of the box. By letting the cloud store and process the data, NCR is providing the ability for retailers to analyze their data in near real-time across all platforms - a real game changer in the grocery business.
Open APIs let grocers continually enrich the retail experience
Finally, Emerald is built on an API-first architecture managed through Apigee. It uses the power of Apigee as an open API platform to expose how Emerald can work with other NCR applications like loyalty and promotions, and third party applications like mobile ordering and order delivery to enrich the grocery experience for employees and customers. Every API that Emerald uses is available on Apigee, allowing them to share code samples and giving developers the ability to run scripts. This approach can allow retailers the ability to innovate in a fraction of the time and cost, speeding up 3rd party integrations up front and as businesses grow.
Take, for example, Northgate Market, a chain of 40 stores in California, that were able to transform its digital operations and enable experiences that set it apart from competitors - quickly and simply with Emerald. It took less than 6 months to go from contract to live deployment in the first store. Since then, Northgate Market has been able to extend their intelligence by leveraging the power of Looker and NCR Analytics.
Learn more about how NCR has been able to leverage an open, cloud-enabled architecture to help customers innovate across the retail, hospitality, and banking industries on the webinar “Role of APIs in Digital Transformation”. You can also learn more about how Northgate uses e-commerce to transform customer experience and gain consumer insights.