Australian Pharmaceutical Industries turns to Google Cloud to modernise its data platform

Tailoring the shopping experience for Priceline Pharmacy's Sister Club members is the priority for Australian Pharmaceutical Industries.

Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API) has announced it is turning to Google Cloud as part of plans to leverage data, machine learning, and AI to personalise the customer journey.

API is the parent company behind retailers such as Priceline Pharmacy and Soul Pattison Chemist, and an AU$3.5 billion wholesale pharmaceutical business.

Speaking with ZDNet, API CTO Dean Matthews explained the priority for the work with Google Cloud, which kicked off six months ago, would be to deliver a more tailored retail experience for its 7.5 million Priceline Pharmacy Sister Club loyalty members based on their shopping preferences and purchase history.

"The Sister Club, for us, is pretty much a crown jewel," Matthews said.

"We've been investing in it very heavily, building out the platform from the bottom up, cleaning the data …  and this is a culmination of all that strategy. Now, we're in a position to do some very high-quality customer analytics using things like recommendation AI, conversation AI, propensity to buy models, machine learning models, and that's where Google comes in."

As part of the project, API will modernise its existing legacy data platform by shifting from Google Analytics 360 to Google Analytics 4, which Matthews says will give the company the ability to access structured and unstructured data, and to "do a large amount of innovation around that data".

Some of those activities would include allowing the company adapt to real-time customer behaviour and changes in variables like pricing and special officers, while also generate real-time insights about customer behaviour across its e-commerce, web channels, mobile, apps, and digital health services.

The move would also create a data ingestion process so it can stream data from other apps and other channels into the same analytics data stream, Matthews added.

API has also created a digital hub hosted on Google Cloud, which brings API's loyalty, e-commerce, and customer data platforms into a central location.

"We've poured all the digital assets and digital capability, and put that under one team. The idea is those digital services and digital capabilities … by pulling it into the centre, we can service all the brands and bring to life the brand propositions, which are different," Matthews said.

The shift into Google Cloud comes off the back of other technology transformation work API has been undertaking for the last four years. Some of the projects have included merging its retail and wholesale businesses onto a single SAP ERP platform, rolling out a new loyalty platform and a new CRM system, and shifting onto Amazon Web Services cloud.

"The transformation program itself has 10 work streams. It's quite rigorous. That goes from e-com through to customer analytics, through to data assets, and also the people capability -- internal process change, internal restructuring because we're pulling people out of different teams and bringing them together," Matthews said.

"There'll be new capabilities that we'll be bringing on board to manage machine learning. Whilst we do some of that today we've got a small number of people, and that team will expand."

Other areas of focus for API will also include expanding its click and deliver service in its franchisee stores. 

Similarly, loyalty giant Flybuys is looking to improve its customer experience, turning to data cloud firm Snowflake to build a data sharing platform to allow Flybuys retailer partners to share data and obtain customer insights.

The move would help Flybuys shift away from its on-premise database that currently contains more than 750 terabytes of data collected from multiple sources such as in-store and online transaction data from its retail program partners.

"We now have much faster access to the data, which means we can be confident we are basing our analysis and insights on data that is as current as possible. Rather than often having a lag of up to 48 hours, retail data can be accessed in near real time," according to Flybuys architecture and engineering head Arul Arogyanathan.

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