Microsoft is teaming up with grocery chain Kroger to pilot a new "connected store" experience at two stores in the U.S. Based on Microsoft's Azure cloud, the program involves using connected IoT sensors to streamline the shopping experience at Kroger stores in Monroe, Ohio and Redmond, Washington.
The goals of the program are twofold, Microsoft says: transforming the shopping experience for customers and boosting employee productivity with better insights. For the former, the pilot stores will utilize smart shelves that use digital displays to serve up everything from prices to nutritional and dietary information. Microsoft and Kroger will also use Azure and AI to create a "unique guided shopping experience for customers" with Kroger's "Scan, Bag, Go" program.
On the employee side of things, workers will be able to take advantage of video analytics to quickly hone in on and refill out-of-stock items on store shelves. Kroger also plans to use a unique "pick-to-light" system that can help associates more quickly fill curbside pickup orders using visual cues on the shelves.
Kroger will also use the smart shelves to sell digital advertising space to brands.
The partnership marks the launch of what Microsoft is calling Retail as a Service (RaaS), which the companies envision as a transformative solution for managing inventory and improving productivity. From Microsoft:
The rapid transformation platform enables retailers to prioritize its most desired initiatives. Future commercial products include: Scan, Bag, Go; Virtual Store Manager; sensor network; and connectors to corporate systems like point-of-sale, and inventory management, tag and merchandising systems. Microsoft and Kroger will jointly bring the RaaS solution to market.
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