Will smart shelves ever be smart enough for Kroger and other retailers?
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kroger CIO Chris Hjelm said the supermarket’s test of smart shelves has reached 14 locations.
With Kroger’s mobile app open, sensors detect shoppers in aisles to offer personal pricing and product suggestions. “I can highlight products for you on a high-definition display on the shelf edge,” said Mr. Hjelm.
As examples, he noted how a gluten-free shopper might find relevant products highlighted in the nutrition-bar section. Shoppers might receive their “personal price” or hear a ping to alert them that a bottle of wine from their shopping list is on a nearby shelf, he said.
Smart shelf proponents also tout their ability to facilitate automated pricing changes as a huge labor-saving advance. They also promise on-demand nutritional information updates.
Some smart shelves can measure inventory life or identify when shelves are running low on product or empty. Using a solution from Powershelf powered by Microsoft Azure, Giant Eagle has reduced its out-of-stock replenishment time by two-thirds and cut its out-of-stock SKUs by 50 percent on any given day, according to Microsoft.
If inventories on an item are too high, a pricing message could offer a “two for one” deal when a customer picks up an item, John Wright, Powershelf’s CEO, recently told Mediapost.
Yet adoption has been slow. Retailers have been experimenting with the technology since the early 2000s. Kroger first tested the technology in the center store of a location in Ohio in 2015. While testing continues at a slow pace, the chain appears to be intrigued by its potential.
Mr. Hjelm told the Journal, “You’ve told me what you like and what you want. I know what’s in the aisle, and I can fuse all that data to create a magical experience. We’re working on it; it isn’t deployed yet.”
- At Kroger, Technology Is Changing the Grocery-Store Shopping Experience – The Wall Street Journal
- Kroger tests ‘smart shelf’ technology – The Cincinnati Enquirer
- Microsoft transforms the retail experience at NRF’s Big Show – Microsoft Blog
- Smart Shelves Track, Dynamically Price The Products On Them – Mediapost
- What can smart shelf tech do for Kroger’s business? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see smart shelves as a transformative addition to retail, particularly in grocery? Is the technology’s biggest potential around dynamic pricing, shopper engagement, inventory management or some other area?