Microsoft has partnered with supermarket chain Kroger to create a hi-tech store, using cloud computing to combine elements of online shopping with a high street store.
As part of a test phase, Kroger has 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.
The two outfitted Kroger locations, in Monroe, Ohio and Redmond, Wash., will feature digital shelving displays with real-time price updates and product information, as well as digital advertisements personalized to each shopper.
Video analytics systems will alert store associates to low inventories. Location-specific data will be stored and processed on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure.
Microsoft and Kroger will jointly market the technology to other retailers, the companies said.
“Our partnership brings together Kroger’s world-class expertise in the grocery industry with the power of Azure and Azure AI,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “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 pilot is reminiscent of Amazon’s new age Amazon Go pilot, which detects the items a shopper has picked up and scans them automatically as the shopper leaves, eliminating the need for traditional cashiers. Amazon is reportedly planning a broad expansion of Go, including in Whole Foods stores, putting pressure on traditional grocers to offer similarly innovative shopping experiences.