Head of Digital & eCommerce, Carrefour Belgium
Carrefour Belgium is part of the international Carrefour Group, one of the world leaders in food distribution with worldwide more than 380.000 employees, more than 123.000 stores in more than 30 countries; and a total turnover of 88,24 billion euros in 2017.
The company’s mission is to be the engine of food transition in Belgium, by offering all Belgians qualitative food and non-food products every day, everywhere - for all tastes and budgets.
Carrefour Belgium is one of Belgium’s biggest food distributors, with the most geographical presence of all food retailers in the country. With more than 40 Carrefour hypermarkets, more than 440 Carrefour Markets, about 300 Carrefour Express stores and more than 200 carrefour drive take away points; Carrefour is always near its customers.
Benoit Couderé is a renowned Sommelier that worked as head sommelier at a three stars Michelin restaurant for many years. He is now in charge of the wine selection for Carrefour Belgium. Every Christmas season, sommelier Benoit visits stores all over Belgium to help customers find the best wine to go with their delicious meals.
Given the fact that there’s only a few sommeliers at Carrefour that can assist customers personally at the stores, it’s impossible to reach the 800+ stores Carrefour has.
Having a solution that was scalable, where the knowledge of sommelier Benoit Couderé could be shared more easily with customers across the stores of the group was the challenge.
The goal was to provide the experience and wine knowledge of Sommelier Benoit Couderé at the fingertips of every customer in the Carrefour stores. This would enhance the customer experience for Carrefour Belgium customers significantly.
As a customer, you should be able to get the best wine that goes perfectly with your meal. Carrefour wanted to provide this expert knowledge to all employees at Carrefour first, so they could support their customers better in choosing the best wine. In a second phase, the goal was to scale out this knowledge to the smartphones of all customers so they can discover the wines that go best with their meals themselves.
In a three week period, Carrefour Belgium and partner Fourcast launched an Alpha version of virtual assistant Sommelier Benoit in three Carrefour stores. With this Alpha version, customers were able to start a conversation with the Sommelier Benoit virtual assistant, made available on a Google Nest Hub device that they could find at the wine section of their Carrefour store. Currently, Fourcast And Carrefour Belgium are working on a second phase of integration, where the virtual assistant will be productionalised and implemented in all Carrefour stores, on the Carrefour website and in the mobile application of Carrefour.
Customers can ask the virtual Sommelier Benoit for wine advice using just their voice. The virtual assistant answers by asking for several preferences. It then recommends a wine that fits the needs of the customer best, after which the customer can go ahead to find and buy this wine in the wine racks of Carrefour.
The Sommelier Benoit virtual assistant allows customers to discover in a natural way, just speaking in natural language to the assistant, the best wine to go with their meal.
The outcome of which wine this is, depends on several factors that were identified by Benoit Couderé. To get the best result, virtual assistant Sommelier Benoit asks the customer several questions to come to the best wine choice for the particular customer:
For example, imagine a Carrefour customer that is planning to cook a pasta meal tonight. He or she goes to its nearest Carrefour supermarket and asks virtual Sommelier Benoit for help at the Google Home Nest Hub in the wine department of the Carrefour store. Sommelier Benoit will ask for the meal the customer is planning to cook, whether he or she likes more red or white wine to go with the pasta, and what their budget is.
The result of this project for Carrefour Belgium is a scalable, innovative solution that helps Carrefour’s customers with their wine choice, in a natural way.
To implement this solution, an accelerated 3 6 9 methodology of Fourcast was carried out. This consisted out of 1 day of workshop, with a strong focus on developing the use case of the Sommelier. This was followed by 3 weeks of development, and deployment in less than one week in three Carrefour stores in Zemst (Flemish Brabant), Evere (Brussels) and Herstal (Wallonia).
Using Google Cloud Platform as a backend in combination with Google’s Dialogflow platform, that makes use of Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies, plus the input of expert sommelier Benoit Couderé - Carrefour Belgium and partner Fourcast were able to create a natural conversation voice bot: the virtual wine assistant Sommelier Benoit was born.
The virtual assistant then was deployed via the Google Assistant as the interface for the users - in this case the Carrefour customers.
The Google Assistant was made physically present in the Carrefour stores via a Google Home Nest Hub.
In only 10 days' time, the virtual wine assistant Sommelier Benoit that was present in the three Carrefour stores received 600 interactions from customers. This was achieved even without additional marketing around the virtual wine bot. Virtual Sommelier Benoit managed to answer accurately and give the right wine advice in 90% of the interactions.
Carrefour store managers and workers were happy to see that virtual sommelier Benoit could help them to advise customers on their wine selection.Carrefour doesn’t need to train all its store workers to become wine connoisseurs or sommeliers, they just have to say: “OK google, could you launch the sommelier Benoit” and they can help the customer. This significantly enhances the customer experience for Carrefour clients.
After the successful implementation of virtual Sommelier Benoit in the three test stores, the Digital Projects department received requests to have a virtual sommelier Benoit in all Carrefour stores, as well as requests from the franchise Carrefour stores to get the wine bot in their stores.
Other positive results were all the positive feedback on social media, in the media and the press; who saw in this project a great visible application of Google’s Artificial Intelligence technology.
Together with partner Fourcast, we were able to demonstrate to the Carrefour management what can be a ‘time to market’ project in an agile or lean way. As a result, the decision was taken to expand the project and to provide the virtual assistant Sommelier Benoit to all Belgian Carrefour customers on their smartphone via the Carrefour app.”
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