Microsoft has teamed up with US supermarket chain Kroger to carve out a foothold in the grocery business by creating a hi-tech store which harnesses cloud computing to marry the convenience of online shopping with a traditional store.
In a trial run Kroger has already refitted two stores to test out key features of the new approach; including ‘digital shelving’ which update pricing information and advertising, informed by embedded sensors which tally the popularity of each product in real-time.
These can be targeted using Microsoft’s own AI software which can predict a shoppers age and gender or, with the individual’s permission, highlight vegetarian and gluten-free options where appropriate.
Kroger has also deployed its own self-checkout app which can help customers navigate aisles to their chosen products, with displays enthusiastically lighting up along their journey with personalised icons drawing attention to shopping list items.
This tech heavy approach even extends to refrigerators which carry their own temperature sensors to ensure that perishable goods are stored under optimal conditions, reducing food wastage. Kroger will also offer a ‘pick-to-light’ system, where customers order from home to collect later.
Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft commented: “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.”
The move follows attempts by Amazon to break into the lucrative grocery sector via its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, enabling it to offer a free grocery delivery service for Prime members in 60 US cities.
Should the trial run prove to be a success Kroger may roll out the technology to all 2,780 of its current supermarkets.