Kroger and Microsoft Team Up to Fire a Shot Across Amazon’s Bow

From experience, we can tell you that the people who are
running Kroger are arguably some of the smartest people in grocery.  And, at the risk of puffery (no, Kroger is
not a client of The Wise Marketer), they are a company that always seems to be pushing
boundaries – and doing it well.

Now comes news of Kroger’s collaboration with Microsoft to bring cloud-enabled notification / quick check-out services to grocery shoppers.  The “EDGE” platform (which stands for Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment), looks a lot on the surface like a robust beacon system – which we’ve seen a lot of.  But the real power and utility of it goes much further than that.

Here’s how it works:

If a customer is looking for a particular item, say, Fage Greek
Yogurt.  The app will locate and direct
them to the item and then, as they approach it on the shelf, a digital icon
will light up indicating where the item is – saving shoppers time looking
around.  The item can then be scanned to
checkout and then the customer is directed to the next item on their list.

It’s pretty snazzy tech which has application beyond the actual grocery shopping experience.  Because items on shopper lists will now light up as they are approached, store personnel and shopping services can now identify their target products to re-stock and/or pick them much more efficiently.  And, as Kroger has pointed out, the digital labeling can also be used for advertising and promotional purposes.

But unlike Amazon, which has a built-in user base that is already accustomed to simple online ordering, Kroger customers will need to download & setup the app, and decide that it brings enough value / convenience to the shopping experience, to actually open it up and use it.  Adoption could be a hurdle.

Anecdotally, when I asked several avid grocery shoppers I know
if they would use the product or not, I got mixed responses.  I get that – grocery shopping and grocery
shoppers have been operating in pretty much in the same mode for 30-40 years
now.  And convincing shoppers to download
another app (in almost any industry) is no easy task.

When the announcement happened a few days ago, much of the press hailed it Kroger’s counter to Amazon – and indeed it is a significant foray into Amazon’s grocery territory – but the headlines might have been a bit, shall we say, enthusiastic.  As impressive as the new system is, it only represents one volley in what is sure to be a long war.

Mike Giambattista is Editor in Chief at The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).

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