Putting Generative AI to Work Today: A Panel Discussion with Carrefour, Lowe's and Victoria's Secret

Produced by


Amy Eschliman

Managing Director, Strategic Consumer Industries, Retail, Google Cloud

Chandhu Nair

Senior Vice President - Data and AI, Customer and Marketing Technology, Lowe's Inc.

Jessyn Katchera

Executive Director - Head of E-Commerce France & Group | Board Member, Carrefour

Murali Sundararajan

Victoria's Secret & Co.

In this panel hosted by Google Cloud, titled "Putting Generative AI to Work Today," industry leaders from Carrefour, Lowe's, and Victoria's Secret shared their experiences and insights on how generative AI is reshaping the retail landscape. Amy Eschliman, Managing Director at Google Cloud, led the discussion, highlighting the urgency and potential of generative AI in transforming both customer and associate experiences through enhanced data analysis and content generation.

Transforming Retail with Generative AI
The session opened with Amy emphasizing the transformative power of generative AI in retail, drawing parallels with past technological shifts such as the internet and mobile phones. "Retail has been through massive transformations; generative AI is just the latest, with the capability of transforming everything from the customer experience to the associate experience," Amy stated. She outlined the broad spectrum of use cases for generative AI in retail, from improving customer service to speeding up product categorization and enhancing creative work.

Driving Efficiency and Customer Experience
Murali Sundararajan, CIO at Victoria's Secret & Co., shared how his company is leveraging generative AI to bridge the gap between in-store and digital customer experiences, specifically addressing a common customer need: bra fitting. He outlined the challenge of replicating the in-store, personalized service experience online, where a customer could seek to find a bra similar to one they purchased years ago. In-store associates, with their experience and knowledge, are adept at guiding customers through the selection process, ensuring they find exactly what they're looking for from the extensive range of products. The goal was to mirror this high level of personalized service in the digital realm.

To address this, Victoria's Secret embarked on a journey with Google, exploring the possibility of leveraging the Vertex AI platform and visual API capabilities to create a virtual bra fitting experience. This initiative started in March, with the prototype moving quickly from conception to production by June of the same year. Murali highlighted the rapid development and deployment process, emphasizing the importance of receiving customer feedback to refine the AI-driven solution further. We're focused on how we can mimic the in-store experience on the digital platform, making it seamless for our customers," Murali said, highlighting the speed and efficiency with which prototypes can be developed and deployed.

"This one we were able to literally see, we saw the use case, and we were able to bring it to solutions very, very fast. And then create a lot of momentum in terms of how do you build the use cases," Murali explained. He detailed the iterative process of using generative AI, emphasizing the critical role of feedback and data in enhancing and tailoring the digital experience to meet customer needs effectively.

Through this initiative, Victoria's Secret aimed not only to improve the customer experience by filling a significant gap in online shopping but also to increase operational efficiency and productivity for their associates. By reducing mundane tasks in the store, associates could focus more on engaging with customers, thereby enhancing the overall shopping experience.

Play Video

Jessyn Katchera, Executive Director at Carrefour, discussed how the company is applying generative AI to revolutionize marketing and reduce mundane work for associates. One of the primary examples Jessyn highlighted was the development of what they termed the "marketing studio," an initiative aimed at leveraging generative AI to generate assets for marketing campaigns faster and more efficiently. This included creating audio, text, and visual content at an unprecedented pace. The goal was to significantly accelerate the agility and time-to-market for Carrefour's marketing campaigns, enabling them to produce customer-ready products in hours or days instead of weeks or months.

This acceleration allows for a broader scope of personalization and adaptation of marketing content, facilitating the deployment of local nuances and tailoring content on a global scale much more swiftly. Jessyn emphasized the importance of this agility for expanding the reach and personalization of Carrefour's marketing campaigns, making a strong case for the transformative potential of generative AI in retail marketing."Generative AI has the potential to reinvent how we operate, transforming our operations significantly," Jessyn remarked, emphasizing the agility and personalization that AI-powered marketing campaigns offer.

Chandhu Nair, Senior Vice President of Data and AI at Lowe's Inc., shared a specific example of how Lowe's is leveraging generative AI to significantly enhance their product onboarding process, which traditionally involved a manual and labor-intensive effort. He highlighted the challenges they faced with the manual onboarding of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) and vendors, where the process was not only time-consuming but also prone to issues with data quality, leading to potential inaccuracies being exposed to customers and store associates.

By applying generative AI, Lowe's was able to achieve a remarkable 60% reduction in the manual labor required for these initial product descriptions, including the processing of attachments and images that accompany a product listing. This application of generative AI allowed for more efficient handling of unstructured data, such as product information and images, streamlining the onboarding process and improving the accuracy and quality of product listings.

Chandhu also discussed the broader impact of generative AI across the retail value chain and its potential to improve productivity and enhance customer experiences. He shared insights into the development of customer-facing applications, such as dynamically curated product collections. These collections, traditionally assembled manually by marketers and merchants, can now be generated in a more dynamic and automated manner, enabling personalized shopping experiences that reflect how customers might browse and shop in physical stores. "The application of generative AI in merchandising and marketing has opened new doors for us, enabling more personalized and efficient customer experiences," Chandhu shared.

Prioritization and Implementation
The speakers highlighted the importance of prioritizing data quality and foundation before moving to more innovative AI use cases. Murali underscored the value of understanding customer experiences to direct generative AI applications, while Jessyn emphasized being pragmatic and disciplined in the adoption of AI technologies. Chandhu shared a value-risk framework for selecting high-value, low-risk use cases, stressing the importance of involving business partners as change agents.

Challenges and Learning
Adopting generative AI in a large organization comes with its set of challenges. The panelists discussed the need for a disciplined approach to innovation, focusing on data quality, and involving business partners and employees in the change management process. They also shared insights on developing guidelines and guardrails around data privacy and responsible AI use.

Looking Ahead
As 2024 approaches, these industry leaders are poised to drive significant value through generative AI. They offered advice to other retailers looking to embark on this journey, emphasizing starting with data quality, focusing on foundational use cases, and implementing human oversight to build trust in AI deployments.

This panel discussion showcased the pragmatic and strategic approaches top retailers are taking to harness the power of generative AI, offering valuable insights and lessons for the wider industry. With an emphasis on improving customer and associate experiences, enhancing operational efficiency, and adopting a disciplined innovation strategy, these leaders are setting the stage for the future of retail in the AI era.

APRIL 2024