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Kroger & Microsoft Want To Change How You Shop For Groceries

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/17/2019 | 3 Minute Read

Kroger, United State’s largest supermarket chain and second largest retailer, in a partnership with Microsoft, has developed a set of in-store technology to compete with Amazon.

While other retailers and grocery chains have implemented online ordering, curbside and home delivery services, Kroger included, the supermarket chain sees an opportunity to do more: integrating bits of technology such as smartphones and digital displays, as well as “old” established tech, such as barcodes, and creating what might be the first iteration of the future supermarket.

With the exception of online ordering, grocery shopping hasn’t changed much, but Kroger and Microsoft want to alter the experience itself.

Consumers create shopping lists, and with their smartphone in tow, they grab a cart and start looking for those items. Once they are in the appropriate aisle, an emoji indicates that the item is on their list is displayed below the package. Other information, such as nutritional preferences (low-fat, gluten-free, etc.) as well suggested items and scannable coupons, can also be presented dynamically, according to consumer preference.

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Users scan an item's barcode with their phone or a store-provided device, and the app shows them where in the store the next thing on the list is located. Once customers are done shopping, they can leave the store (presumably they’d have a card on file or charge it via Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay or some other in-app mechanism) without waiting in a checkout line to complete their purchase.

It's almost as if the package becomes the cash register.

Not only does this change the shopping experience, but it also affects how supermarkets operate. Digital price tags allow Kroger to dynamically change prices, a tedious feat that is laborious and requires lots of employee hours to accomplish. It also provides a more accurate overview of store inventory and makes online order fulfillment by employees more efficient.

Will this be transformative enough to keep Amazon at bay? While some categories have been upended by Amazon, grocery stores have yet to be impacted significantly by the “Amazon effect.” However, with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, it might just be a matter of time before they disrupt the entire sector.

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There are also privacy concerns-consumers will trade a significant amount of information about themselves, including dietary preferences and spending habits for added convenience. Frequent shopper cards are a popular way to track consumer habits, but Kroger’s new system is even more invasive. While privacy concerns over what apps and devices share about us with whom flare up from time to time, US consumers seem undeterred and continue to use these services, knowing full well that their information is being recorded, compiled and in many cases resold.

Concerns aside, Kroger and Microsoft may be onto something and changing the way we shop in supermarkets, making clever uses of technology to save their customers time and improve the overall grocery getting experience.