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Digital capabilities strengthen retail excellence

Discover how Kesko, a retail giant known for its excellence in grocery, building and technical trade, as well as car trade, is embracing technological forerunnership.

Pirja Heiskanen / March 19, 2024

Kesko is known for its grocery, building and technical trade, as well as car trade. The retail giant is investing heavily in technological forerunnership, with digital capabilities at the heart of its business. In this work, Kesko is accelerated by Tietoevry.

Within the retail sector, Kesko stands as a trailblazer in digital business, with over two billion euros in annual revenue generated through digital channels. Business and customer service are at the heart of all digital development. It might not be widely known that a significant portion of revenue originates from corporate clientele. For instance, over 70 percent of Kespro’s sales are already facilitated through digital services. It’s worth noting that digital business transcends mere online retailing; Kespro, for instance, offers an array of digital services aimed at simplifying the daily operations of its customers.

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According to Arto Hiltunen, Kesko’s Chief Information Officer, Kesko is systematically building its own digital capabilities. Alongside its partner network, the company continually hires professionals in areas such as software development and service design.

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During a commute to K-Kampus in Helsinki’s Kalasatama district, Pirja Heiskanen, Director of Data and Artificial Intelligence at Tietoevry, observed once again first-hand how online shopping data seamlessly integrates into daily life. Sitting beside Heiskanen on the metro, young women were using their smartphones to gather information about product availability and origin. The availability of such crucial information in near real-time has required extensive groundwork.

Heiskanen emphasizes the importance of data mobility in the supply chain. The goal is for various stakeholders, such as customers, retailers, and suppliers, to receive the information they need almost in real-time into their own systems or devices. This necessitates an understanding of business operations, customer needs, and stakeholder requirements.

“At Kesko, our aim is to provide data-driven benefits to our customers, so they can access more accurate product information, make healthier purchasing decisions, and receive targeted recipes, recommendations, and offers,” explains Hiltunen.

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“In the future, consumers will find it increasingly effortless to assess the sustainability of their purchasing choices, with readily available information on product origins, carbon footprints, and domestic production rates,” adds Tero Virtanen, Director of Retail and Logistics Services at Tietoevry.

Smart utilization of data also propels Kesko’s own responsibility throughout the order and supply chains of the grocery trade.

“Through data, we can, for example, minimize waste and predict demand. This benefits not only Kesko but society at large,” says Virtanen.


Generative AI: The dream colleague

Partnering with Tietoevry, Kesko actively seeks out new technological opportunities on a broad scale. Next, tools created by generative artificial intelligence are expected to ease the daily routines of both retailers and customers alike.

While it’s still challenging to predict all the impacts and possibilities of generative AI, it’s expected to streamline manual work, particularly in e-commerce, by automating simple and routine tasks. AI already serves as a powerful aid for content producers, assisting in product descriptions and language translations. Camera-based AI functions, which can, for instance, monitor individual shelf waste are currently in pilot use.

The nature of work is undergoing significant transformation. Not all current tasks will be needed, and other aspects of work will become more meaningful and smoother than before.

“AI could become the dream colleague, effortlessly handling all the mundane tasks, and thus freeing up time for business development. For instance, in car trade, AI and automation could price thousands of cars at once or handle routine leasing invoicing,” says Hiltunen from Kesko.


Digital professionals are needed in every business

Being a digital pioneer has required leaders who have a profound understanding of data value – and who are committed to change. Amidst unpredictable shifts, Kesko believes in an open-minded approach, listening to customer needs, and fostering collaboration.

“In the leadership teams of our different business functions, there’s always a digital professional present so we can collectively contemplate how business can be enhanced through digital services. We are genuinely working hand in hand,” remarks Hiltunen.

Kesko’s technological investments have yielded great success precisely because they have been widely and rapidly implemented across the entire workforce.

Dialogue must extend not only towards employees but also towards customers. Kesko’s digital channels already see a staggering 4.5 million visits per week, with 21,000 customers participating in service development.

“We listen to customer feedback, test our services, and continually improve our solutions. Through risk-taking and successes, trust in digital services has grown both within Kesko and externally,” Hiltunen rejoices.

“Technological leadership and a deep understanding of the value of data are creating a real competitive advantage for businesses. As a partner, we emphasize customer and business understanding, because at Kesko, we are responsible for core business processes, such as the technology used in order and delivery chains. The work done by Kesko is a great example of how data and new technologies can be used to create better business and help consumers make more responsible choices,” sums up Tero Virtanen from Tietoevry.


Where could generative AI be beneficial? Explore use case ideas in the blog.


The article was published on Tivi magazine on 13/03/2024.


Pirja Heiskanen
Head of Data Management, Tietoevry Tech Services


Pirja Heiskanen

Head of Data Management, Tietoevry Tech Services

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