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Microsoft and Kroger put 'connected' grocery shopping to the test

The pair launch app-assisted pilot stores near their headquarters.

The Kroger Co Microsoft RaaS

Kroger and Microsoft are collaborating to pilot two "connected experience stores."

Kroger

Microsoft and Kroger have teamed up to offer customers a "connected store experience" that's very different from the one offered by Amazon Go.

The companies opened pilot stores that use digital shelf labeling in Monroe, Ohio, and in Redmond, Washington, near Kroger's and Microsoft's respective headquarters.

The labeling system is known as Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment (EDGE, not to be confused with the browser), which Microsoft revealed last year, and replaces traditional paper price tags with digital displays that can be altered in real time -- so no more outdated or illegible tags.

It can also display promotions and nutritional information as needed.

You can use the Kroger app to write a shopping list before you go to the store, and it'll guide you once you get there. It works in tandem with the EDGE system to display a personalized image that'll help you spot the item you need on the shelf.

The same system helps employees find groceries for pickup orders, while ceiling-mounted cameras can spot out-of-stock items and gather valuable marketing data for Kroger, according to Bloomberg.

Microsoft's Azure system crunches all this data and offers Kroger a chance to advertise more directly to you.

"Using video analytics, personalized offers and advertisements can be presented based on customer demographics," Microsoft noted in a release.

The success of these pilot stores will determine how the program expands.

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The Kroger stores have a different focus from the cashierless Amazon Go locations, which are designed to let you shop without a wallet and without having to stand in checkout lines -- you scan the Amazon Go app on your phone as you arrive, you pick up items while monitored by the store's cameras and you're charged via your Amazon account as you leave.

Last summer, rumors suggested that Microsoft was in talks with Walmart to implement its own cashierless store technology.

Kroger has also been looking to innovate within the grocery delivery market, with unmanned delivery pods zipping around Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of an autonomous delivery pilot program.

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