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Kroger Rolls Out Kroger EDGE - A Clean Energy, Cloud-Based Signage Solution for Retail Shelves
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America's largest supermarket chain Kroger is rolling out smart shelving to 120 of its stores. The technology known as EDGE - which stands for Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment, developed by Sunrise Technologies (a division of Kroger) - offers a personalized, interactive shopping experience for Kroger customers, in addition to sustainability benefits that chime with the retailer's goal to cut cumulative electricity consumption by 40% by 2020.
The EDGE system is a new, cloud-based signage solution for retailers that supports full color digital imagery and video for displaying creative ads and other content, such as nutritional and allergy information about groceries. Certain items may be presented as "gluten free", for example, while others will inform the shopper "I'm local!". Digital prices, deals of the hour, and imagery of foods also display, while the shelves' Bluetooth functionality interacts with shopping lists stored on customers' smartphones, causing the shelves to light up beneath the very items that customers have come to the store to fetch.
(Video source: youtube.com)
EDGE relies on Microsoft Azure to store and process large volumes of data generated by customer actions on and around the shelves. Connected by IoT sensors, EDGE sends real-time information from every aisle and endcap where the shelves are installed.
Helping customers navigate the store, find items on their shopping list, and buy local are all very impressive in and of themselves - but it's the system's eco benefits that provide an added bonus that may well be the real hit for both retailers and consumers.
Rather than having to rely on printed paper and cardboard signage to promote items on sale, all information - including nutritional data and key merchandising messages - stream digitally from the IoT-enabled displays. "It's cleaner and environmentally efficient - and our customers perceive that and like it," said Kroger's Vice President of Research and Development Brett Bonner. "This is green power."
EDGE is designed to use a low-voltage direct current, which meets standards set by the EMerge Alliance - an industry association that promotes efficient power usage in commercial buildings. At present, the system has an LED light source that uses far less power than incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, though Bonner also notes that as EDGE matures, it will run on renewable energy sources.
As the technology illuminates shelf prices and other information with its digital displays, stores will also no longer require the same intensity of overhead lighting typically used to highlight paper-based price tags. "The main reason for having big lights in stores is because you've got to light it up to read paper tags," Bonner says. "With this, you can also turn down your lights."
Another advantage that comes from pulling on Azure's capabilities is the enablement of dynamic pricing, meaning that commodities like seasonal produce can be priced closer to real-market values or singled out for flash deals. Special promotions, too, can be easily created and launched with the EDGE system.
This has all helped Kroger boost sales in stores where EDGE shelving has been trialed, and ad revenue has also been increased due to the vibrant advertising carried on each shelf.
More features are currently being demoed and tested. For example, in conjunction with a special app, customers can give their smartphones instructions like "Show me the item with the least sodium," and the shelf containing that product will light up. Another involves custom avatars being created for customers who link their digital shopping lists with the EDGE system.
"My avatar is Spiderman," said Kevin Fessenden, Senior Product Manager at Sunrise Technology. "As I'm walking through the store, every time I see a digital tag on the shelf with Spiderman on it, I know that's an item on my shopping list."
Today, many consumers are willing spend more on a sustainability-conscious brand, so highlighting these additional eco benefits that come in tow with a richer, highly personalized, digital shopping experience will undoubtedly help Kroger win even more loyalty from customers.
"It brings the information richness of the internet to the sights, sounds, touch, and feel of retail," Bonner says. "The path to purchase for an internet shopper is typically a 'click and wait.' In this case, you've got all those features - and standing in front of your product is a motivated buyer ready to reach and pick."
Smart shelving is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores 2019, taking place in February at the JW Marriott Miami, FL.
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