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Walmart and Microsoft have formed a strategic partnership to further accelerate the retailer’s digital transformation.

Optimising Microsoft’s cloud computing capabilities

Central to this strategic partnership is Microsoft’s role as the retailer’s preferred cloud provider which will enable Walmart to tap into the tech company’s range of solutions. Building on this, the companies will work together on a broad set of cloud innovation projects that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence and data platform solutions for a wide range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications. The aim of this strategic partnership will be to significantly accelerate Walmart’s ability to execute in three key areas.

1. Digital transformation

In a five-year agreement, Walmart has selected the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 for enterprise-wide use to help standardise across the company’s brands. As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate on the assessment, development, and support phase of moving hundreds of existing applications to cloud native architectures. This includes migrating a significant portion of and to Azure.

2. Innovation

As Walmart builds a global IoT platform on Azure, it will leverage its scale to improve site availability and speed and seamlessly launch new features. It will also help the retailer to reduce costs through connected HVAC and refrigeration units and applying machine learning to route trucks in its supply chain.

3. Changing how it works

Through this partnership, Walmart is investing in its people with a phased rollout of Microsoft 365 providing associates with the productivity tools to foster a culture of collaboration, creativity and communication. Microsoft’s workplace platform supports connected teams, providing colleagues with access to a full range of tools including Microsoft Workplace Analytics, Microsoft Stream, and Microsoft OneDrive.

The CEO view

Commenting on the strategic partnership, Walmart’s president and CEO, Doug McMillon, stated, “Walmart’s commitment to technology is centered around creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empowering associates to do their best work. Walmart is a people led, tech empowered company, and we’re excited about what this technology partnership will bring for our customers and associates. Whether it’s combined with our agile cloud platform or leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to work smarter, we believe Microsoft will be a strong partner in driving our ability to innovate even further and faster.

Growing global alliances

At a global level, alliances are being built across several areas. As retailers enter the ecommerce channel, or scale up existing programmes, many are acquiring supply chain capabilities, especially for same-day delivery. As with Walmart and Microsoft, retailers are also partnering with technology companies to help develop new ways of working and generate actionable insights from the growing volume of data they have access to. Companies such as Google,, Ocado and Tencent have been at the heart of many of the new alliances which have been struck over the last 12 months.

Powering the future Walmart ecosystem

This partnership comes at a pivotal time in Walmart’s ongoing digital transformation. While the retailer has digitised a significant proportion of the work undertaken at its Home Office and within its stores, this new partnership highlights the significant opportunities which remain. Walmart will also be able to optimise Microsoft’s capabilities as it moves beyond being a multichannel leader to developing its own ecosystem.

The retailer will also be able to draw on its impending acquisition of Flipkart and its recently announced strategic partnership with Tencent in China. Many of the building blocks already in place, including its stores, online presence, digitally native brands, logistics operations, payment app and enhanced data-science and analytical capabilities. The ability to combine these in a meaningful way through optimising new technologies for its shoppers could be a game-changer for the retailer.

Catalan distribution group, including Bon Preu, Esclat and EsclatOil, is to strengthen its online grocery channel through a partnership with Ocado.

New ecommerce website

With the alliance, the group will launch a new ecommerce website and app as a short-term priority, possibly later in 2018. New features include searching for favourites or allergens and allowing customers to modify their basket just hours before collection. Currently the product assortment online exceeds 11,000 items.

Expanding click and collect service

Bon Preu’s click and collect service started in 2012, allowing customers to collect their groceries at certain stores. The number of click and collect points will be expanded across Catalonia in light of the partnership. The move highlights the group’s commitment to omnichannel retailing, and digital transformation.

Bon Preu's click and collect service. Source: Bon Preu

Carrefour Italy has announced plans to begin using blockchain technology to improve traceability in the supply chain.

Building on wider success

Following Carrefour France’s launch of blockchain technology in March 2018, Carrefour Italy has said it will begin using similar solutions from September. The retailer said it would enable shoppers to see the entire supply chain of poultry products from 29 farms, two feed factories and one slaughterhouse.

A step towards total transparency

To access the information, shoppers scan a QR code that takes them to an interface created especially by Carrefour Italia that shows them all the information about where the product has come from. The next product that shoppers will be able to find out more about is its private label citrus fruits. Commenting on the initiative, Carrefour Italia’s director of operations, Stéphane Coum, said: “For Carrefour Italia, the traceability of the supply chain represents in this sense a further assumption of responsibility towards our customers and a new step towards total transparency.

Carrefour France expands blockchain use

Meanwhile, as part of a separate announcement, Carrefour France said it was extending the use of blockchain technology to its second product: tomatoes. Shoppers will be able to find out about the whole supply chain of the Carrefour Quality Line cored oblong tomatoes. The retailer said the solution was the result of a three year with the Rougeline cooperative, which has seen nine producers grow tomatoes without herbicide. Carrefour has committed to providing complete transparency of supply chains for eight products by the end of 2018.


Chris Tyas is the Global Head of Supply Chain for Nestlé. In this first of two reports from our interview with him, he shares his thoughts on new digital technology and automation. We learn about some examples of how Nestlé is developing their supply chain to drive the business forward around the world.
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