It looks like Kroger isn’t taking its foot off the innovation pedal anytime soon. The grocery giant announced today that it has partnered with Microsoft to create a smarter, tech-enabled store with solutions that can be packaged and sold to other retailers.
Two pilot store locations — one in Microsoft’s hometown of Redmond, WA, and one in Monroe, OH, near Kroger’s HQ — will be outfitted with an array of IoT sensors and digital displays powered by Azure, Microsoft’s answer to Amazon Web Services.
These high-tech stores will feature the Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment (EDGE) advanced shelving system that uses digital displays to show prices, sales and nutritional information. But the digital displays also act like electronic guides for in-store shoppers using Krogers self-checkout app. Consumers can assign a particular icon to an item (a banana, for instance), and the EDGE display will show that icon so the shopper can identify it quickly. These displays can also be used for Kroger employees collecting items for online orders. The smart displays could also be a source of revenue as in-store advertisements.
Elsewhere in these smart stores will be an array of sensors and cameras which can keep track of inventory for faster re-stocking, and monitor temperatures in cold cases to prevent spoilage.
What’s also interesting about this partnership is that the two companies plan on packaging this smart system and selling it to other retailers. Grocery giants like Kroger and Albertsons have been investing heavily in technology in an attempt to prevent Amazon/Whole Foods from gobbling up the entire sector. So Kroger and Microsoft offering up a turnkey solution could be attractive to smaller and mid-level grocery chains.
Worth noting are the things not mentioned in this press release. There’s no mention of cashierless checkout, which we only bring up since it’s been rumored that Microsoft is working on that technology with Walmart. Additionally, and this is more out there, Monroe is also where Kroger is building out its first robot-powered smart distribution warehouse. Kroger spent last year investing heavily in technology like the smart warehouse, self-driving delivery vehicles and an innovation lab. This year, we may get more insight into how all these pieces will come together and integrate with one another.