Carrefour: Providing great retail experiences, on- and offline, powered by Google Cloud

About Carrefour

Originating in France, the Carrefour Group now has stores in more than 30 countries reaching 104 million households across the world each year. Carrefour has been a pioneer in food retail for more than 60 years, continuously striving to make its products both affordable and accessible to everyone.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Spain

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Carrefour runs SAP on Google Cloud with full data centralization for the best possible customer service, both on- and offline.

Google Cloud results

  • Adopts industry best practices for back office management with SAP on Google Cloud
  • Deploys a new ecommerce solution over Google Kubernetes Engine to provide scalability, flexibility, and stability to the platform
  • Scales on demand with the speed of the business without the delays of hardware procurement, configuration, and maintenance

Google Cloud collates 2,000+ data streams in one place

In 1963, Carrefour was the first chain to bring the hypermarket model to France, opening a 2,500 m2 store that offered its customers the previously unseen combination of self-service shelves, a vast range of products, and free parking spaces. Since its foundation, the group has grown into one of the world's largest food retailers and has continued to innovate. It now aims to transform the future of retail by offering the best retail experience and the best products at the best price to customers around the world, pursuing an omnichannel strategy that encompasses ecommerce alongside brick-and-mortar stores.

For Carrefour Spain, the Spanish subsidiary of the group, this is a logical step. “Our focus is on our customers,” says Jose Antonio Santana, CIO at Carrefour Spain. “We want to meet them wherever they are, whether that’s in our hypermarkets, supermarkets, gas stations, or online.” Today, Carrefour thrives on- and offline with more than 1,000 physical stores across the country and 1.4 million online transactions a year.

In 2018, Carrefour Spain decided to overhaul its aging IT infrastructure and build a technological foundation designed to provide its customers with even better service. But making that change is a big decision for a company as big as Carrefour Spain, with so many different stores spread out across the country. The solution had to be powerful enough to handle large data processing tasks and designed to scale rapidly during peak shopping times such as the holidays or Black Friday.

“The goal was to build a data-centric technology infrastructure, so that we could serve our customers better and improve their experience. We needed to reconfigure our core infrastructure from the ground up, transforming our back office with Google Cloud and SAP.”

Jose Antonio Santana, CIO, Carrefour Spain

A cloud-based solution was the only way to handle the scale needed. However, the company could not afford to put its operations on hold during the migration, so it also needed a hybrid platform that could work with the existing on-premises infrastructure in the short term. To make that foundation a reality, the company turned to Google Cloud.

“The goal was to build a data-centric technology infrastructure, so that we could serve our customers better and improve their experience,” says Jose Antonio. “We needed to reconfigure our core infrastructure from the ground up, transforming our back office with Google Cloud and SAP.”

Accessing the right expertise for a successful migration

Combining on- and offline retail is a simple concept, but it involves managing complex factors. As ecommerce has become a much bigger part of customers' lives, their behavior has changed, even when they are shopping in physical stores. “Our customers today are much more sophisticated than before, with higher expectations,” says Jose Antonio. “Often, they want to have all the information about a product, even before they walk into the store.” Customers don’t exclusively shop on- or offline, either. For example, they might want to buy bread in-store, but prefer to buy other products in bulk online.

To ensure that Carrefour delivers the same high quality service whichever channel the customer uses, the company has to collate multiple strands of data, relating to products, prices, stock levels, and local availability. The existing on-premises IT infrastructure was not designed for the amount of data processing such services require and had reached its technological limits. In order to scale up and meet demand, the company would have had to carefully plan its capacity in advance, sinking costs into hardware that had to be ordered, installed, configured, and maintained. By 2018, Carrefour Spain needed not just new equipment, but a new kind of infrastructure.

With so many unique aspects to consider, Carrefour Spain worked closely with Google Cloud consulting services to ensure an orderly, phased migration with minimal disruption to the business. “We pride ourselves on our innovation, but our business isn’t to specialize in cloud technology,” says Esther Vázquez Hevia, Director of Digital Transformation and Production and CISO at Carrefour Spain. “We wanted access to experts with the best knowledge and expertise, who could guide us through a successful migration. The best way for us to do that was with Google Cloud Consulting services.”

Updating ERP infrastructure for complete data consolidation

Large retail organizations such as Carrefour depend on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools for back-office operations such as inventory management, payroll, or supply processing. Over the years, the company had built up an assortment of applications to deal with its ERP needs, which resulted in data silos that took time to collate and analyze.

Moving to Google Cloud provided Carrefour with the perfect opportunity to update and standardize its back-office procedures and consolidate its data streams. It runs SAP on Google Cloud, which gives retailers access to the world’s leading ERP application vendor combined with the advantages of a cloud-based infrastructure.

With help from Google Cloud consulting services, Carrefour Spain began implementing SAP HANA on Compute Engine virtual machines in September. Within four months, the company had deployed the first phase of its new hybrid infrastructure, made up of 150 virtual machines. Around 40 of these are dedicated just to SAP HANA, while the others are given over other major services such as data processing.

With SAP on Google Cloud, Carrefour Spain has built an infrastructure optimized for customer service. The company has consolidated more than 2,000 data streams into a single place, and it now has the capacity and power to collate, analyze, and act on that information in real time.

“With Google Kubernetes Engine on Google Cloud, we can deploy and deliver new environments very quickly. We can grow and resize our environments at the same speed that we roll out our projects.”

Esther Vázquez Hevia, Director of Digital Transformation and Production and CISO, Carrefour Spain

Getting ready for annual peaks with automatic scaling

As well as transforming its data processing, Carrefour Spain also had its eye on boosting its ecommerce infrastructure ahead of the holiday season. Just a month before Black Friday, the company began migrating its ecommerce solution to Google Kubernetes Engine clusters. By using Kubernetes, the open-source container technology developed at Google, Carrefour Spain does not have to worry about provisioning new servers when it scales up.

When Black Friday came, the new ecommerce platform built on Google Cloud passed the test with flying colors, able to scale up and down automatically without compromising performance.

“With Google Kubernetes Engine on Google Cloud, we can deploy and deliver new environments very quickly,” says Esther. “We can grow and resize our environments at the same speed that we roll out our projects.”

“Google Cloud has given us the flexibility to adapt our infrastructure and the agility to make changes very quickly. We’ve been able to adopt and standardize industry best practices across the whole company and provide the highest possible service to our customers.”

Jose Antonio Santana, CIO, Carrefour Spain

A solution for the present, a foundation for the future

The migration to Google Cloud has also made an impact on Carrefour’s developers and engineers, changing how they work. The operations team has adopted an “infrastructure as code” methodology, which allows it to make quick and easy changes to environments in minutes, without having to manage or maintain hardware. The team can build and iterate through different updates much more efficiently than before, resulting in higher quality services.

“Google Cloud has given us the flexibility to adapt our infrastructure and the agility to make changes very quickly,” says Jose Antonio. “We’ve been able to adopt and standardize industry best practices across the whole company and provide the highest possible service to our customers.”

Carrefour Spain has also reduced infrastructure costs with pay-per-use pricing on Google Cloud. With only one of its seven Google Cloud environments designated as a production environment, the company can shut the others down at night or on weekends when developers aren't working on them, saving resources for where they are really needed.

After the success of the 2018 holiday season, Carrefour Spain has focused on migrating its legacy on-premises architecture to Google Cloud and completing its digital transformation. With Google Cloud in place, the company can look forward to accessing new technology such as machine learning capabilities for enhanced data analysis, or SAP Leonardo, which can integrate Internet of Things functionality to its existing ERP capabilities.

“Together, Google Cloud and Carrefour are developing solutions for the retail experience of the future ,” says Jose Antonio. “We want to provide our customers with the best service, wherever they are, whenever they need it.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Carrefour

Originating in France, the Carrefour Group now has stores in more than 30 countries reaching 104 million households across the world each year. Carrefour has been a pioneer in food retail for more than 60 years, continuously striving to make its products both affordable and accessible to everyone.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Spain