Loblaw, Canada, partnered with Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Calif., to unlock new opportunities with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data mining and cloud-based solutions to redefine retail operations and help its workforce prepare for the future.

Loblaw will integrate Microsoft’s AI technology within its PC Optimum loyalty program to match member customers with better deals and offers based on their online preferences. By using Microsoft Azure to securely store and process data, Loblaw redesigned its customer data by taking apart siloed information, anonymizing, aggregating and building out a feature to customize offers at scale. 

“We understood the power of what Microsoft was bringing to the market from an AI perspective,” says David Markwell, senior vice president of technology for Loblaw. “With the data already collected, but separated into different customer experiences, it made sense to move it all to the cloud and to leverage AI tools to drive results. With AI, I see this democratization of knowledge and ability to make decisions being moved out into the business units.” 

In addition, by leveraging Microsoft’s open-source cloud solutions, Loblaw provided its digital teams with a familiar technology toolkit designed to upskill employees, break down barriers between departments and build new digital skills, including a machine-learning practice, across teams. 

“It’s really changed the culture and how people work here,” says Jenny McConvey, director of decision support for Loblaw. “It’s taking subject matter experts from different areas and bringing them together to work on one project.”