Kroger Explores ‘Smart Shelf ’ Tech At Hometown Store

Even if local Cincinnati grocery shoppers don’t immediately interact with the displays, the single-store pilot program may demonstrate rapid efficiencies.

Grocery chain Kroger has begun a limited test of smart shelf technology in its home city of Cincinnati, following in the footsteps of companies like Whole Foods and Walgreens and other retail chains looking to quickly expand their omnichannel offerings to attract connected consumers.

Kroger has replaced sticker labels on most of the shelves in a Cincinnati location with digital screens that show prices, ads, and further information about products being sold, to test the best uses of smart shelf displays.Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.52.09 PM

Some of the features of Kroger’s smart shelves include displaying dietary restrictions, video ads to drive customers to specific products, push notifications about promotions, sales, and coupons, the Indianpolis Star reported.

Even if customers don’t necessarily interact with the smart displays, the introduction of the technology could provide immediate efficiencies. For example, just changing the prices on the fly is something Kroger admits takes hours to do with traditional labeling; the same process could take a matter of seconds using the smart shelf display, The company hopes that the inclusion of more digital touchpoints will keep things simpler and more accurate, while freeing up employees’ time to spend interacting with and helping customers.

While Kroger has not specified a plan for expanding the tech to the rest of their many locations throughout the country, the expansion will definitely happen. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Christopher Hjelm, Kroger’s CIO told IndyStar.

When that does happen, Kroger hopes to integrate other in-store technology like beacons and customer location tracking. In the future, Kroger customers could integrate their smartphones with the shelves, connect their shopping lists, and be guided around the store to find the things they need. Customers could also filter what their looking for (say, whole wheat pasta) and have all of the products that fit that criteria on the nearby shelf be highlighted.

While initial customer reaction appears to be positive with regard to most of the changes, Kroger found that some of the features still need further tweaking. Eye-catching ads for items like Cheerios proved more of a frustration for shoppers with small children than effective advertising. However, Kroger had significant success with flashing the message “Don’t forget the baby wipes!” when customers were shopping in the diaper aisle

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Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.