DIY retailer Kingfisher partners with Google Cloud to boost e-commerce

FILE PHOTO: Signs outside the B&Q and Screwfix stores in Loughborough, Britain

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - European home improvement retailer Kingfisher has agreed a five-year partnership with Google Cloud, a move it said should provide customers with faster and more intuitive searches, and better tailor product ranges.

The company, which owns DIY brands B&Q and Castorama, and trade-focused Screwfix and TradePoint, increased online sales during the pandemic when stores were closed and customers spent more on home improvements. E-commerce sales were up 138% over three years in its third quarter, it said this month.

But chief digital and technology officer JJ Van Oosten said in an interview that the company felt it needed to accelerate its digital focus, and the move to the cloud was key.

"It will give us more freedom, more speed and allow us to get much closer to our customers, particularly in data," he said.

Kingfisher, a long-time user of SAP software, had started moving its legacy data to Google Cloud, where it could be used to test new online concepts and improve the efficiency of deliveries such as its less-than-one-hour Screwfix 'Sprint' service.

The partnership would also help B&Q expand its marketplace, launched earlier this year to allow third-parties to offer products in wallpaper, lighting, power tools and small domestic appliances.

Improved search, underpinned by Google's machine learning, would enable customers to navigate an online range that could increase to as much as 4 million in the coming years from around 300,000 today, he said.

Google Cloud Chief Executive Thomas Kurian said its technology was helping customers identify product using image search, or by answering questions posed in imprecise terms.

"We have a lot of history in search of making inexact queries work really well," he said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Conor Humphries)