American grocery giant Kroger has partnered with Microsoft to launch two pilot stores combining grocery shopping with digital cloud technology.
The two shops, in Ohio and Washington, will trial “digital shelves” that can display advertising and prices digitally, as well as a network of sensors that can track what customers pick up and purchase.
Shoppers will also be able to use Kroger’s self-checkout app, which will guide them through the aisles based on the items on their shopping lists.
The digital shelves will then display a “personalised icon” based on what the products are.
The cloud-based system is a mixture of Kroger-developed products, such as its enhanced display for grocery environment (EDGE) “smart shelves”, powered by Microsoft Azure technology.
Kroger said the technology would “create new customer experiences, enable higher levels of personalisation through insights and enhance store associate productivity”.
In June, it emerged Microsoft had been developing “checkout-free tech” as it threw down the gauntlet to Amazon’s cashier-less Amazon Go store, which launched in Seattle at the beginning of 2018.
Kroger, which penned a partnership with Ocado last year to accelerate its online grocery push, said the pilot stores would “guide expansion plans in 2019 and beyond”.
Rodney McMullen, chief executive and chair of Kroger, said: “Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide our customers with personalised food inspiration.
“We are identifying partners through Restock Kroger, who will help us reinvent the customer experience and create new profit streams that will also accelerate our core business growth. We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to redefine grocery retail.”
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella added: “Our partnership brings together Kroger’s world-class expertise in the grocery industry with the power of Azure and Azure AI. Together, we will redefine the shopping experience for millions of customers at both Kroger and other retailers around the world, setting a new standard for innovation in the industry.”