As QFC and Fred Meyer's parent company, Kroger, struck a partnership with Microsoft on Monday morning, QFC grocery stores in suburban Seattle quietly ushered in a retail future.
Like another store near Kroger's headquarters in Monroe, Ohio, the store near Microsoft's headquarters was one of the pilot projects. The store is deploying smart shelves and handheld smart devices to improve the efficiency of store shopping, pricing, replenishment and advertising.
Large screens at both ends of digital shelves can be targeted for advertising
Although the new technology was launched weeks ago, neither side had made any marketing efforts before Monday's news release to tell customers how the technology was being used to improve delivery and settlement efficiency.
A pilot store near Microsoft headquarters saw a small settlement counter near the outlet of the store, which was printed on it.
Many of the passageways at the center of the store are equipped with EDGE (enhanced display for grocery environment) shelves. Traditional shelves require manual posting of paper price tags bar codes and promotional information while EDGE shelves are much more efficient and can update 20,000 price information in just a few minutes.
Ryan Stephens scans goods with in-store handheld devices
Ryan Stephens, the manager responsible for EDGE shelf delivery at Kroger stores, says the technology is based on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, which updates prices. Shelf restocking and lazy people picking up goods (that is, stores deliver goods to the customer's car) are 60 percent more efficient. Thanks to this technology, staff's picking efficiency has been greatly improved, picking time has been greatly reduced from the original four hours.
When a customer needs to find a particular item on the shopping list, the handheld smart device or QFC APP directs it to the exact aisle and shelf location where the item is located, and the resulting acceleration is obvious. For example, a customer needs to buy a particular brand of spaghetti sauce, and when he walks to the shelf where the pasta sauce is located, the EDGE shelf sends a warning signal, which is especially effective when the shelf is filled with dozens of brands of pasta sauce.
Customers can then choose to scan their barcodes with APP on handheld devices or mobile phones to learn about offers or to add items to shopping carts.
Note: the dairy section of QFC's grocery store still has old-fashioned paper stickers
In the process of shopping, the system automatically accumulates the price of the goods, and the customer can also delete the goods from the shopping cart. After purchasing all items, customers can choose self-checkout, the shop clerk quickly check, can pay out.
Smart shelves can also target specific types of advertising for customers, opening up a potential source of revenue for Kroger. A small camera at the end of the aisle will monitor shoppers' behavior and watch how long they stay at specific advertising or promotional events.
Zach Stratton, who is in charge of corporate affairs at QFC, said Kroger would look at the two pilots to determine how customers reacted to the technology and how much efficiency the technology would bring to its internal staff. It then decided at what pace to extend the technology to its more than 2800 retail food stores, including Fred Meyer,QFC,Pick n Save.
Self-service clearing channel
Despite the convenience of the new technology, many people choose to ignore it and continue to shop the way they like, Stratton said.
However, from what reporters have seen at QFC grocery stores, the technology has not attracted many customers who are keen on new technology. An old man shopping at the grocery store said he was not impressed with the new technology.
There is no doubt that older customers have their own way of shopping. But Kroger and Microsoft are targeting a new generation of customers who want to offer more options to young people. Kroger and Microsoft aren't the only companies to try this, until then. Amazon has charted the way for young people through new technologies at Amazon Go's unattended convenience stores and whole Foods.
The Sindelar and his wife stopped in front of the self-help clearing counter at the QFC grocery store
Mark Sindelar and Kathy Sindelar in Redmond stopped in front of the self-clearing counter at the QFC grocery store, and on Monday morning they read and became interested in the introduction to new technology in stores. The couple will use online shopping and courier services, but they prefer the feeling of shopping in physical stores and browsing goods without any device. They even left their cell phones in the car while shopping.
Mark Sindelar said he had a brief experience at grocery stores many years ago, so he remained interested in grocery marketing, operations and technological development.
Mark enjoys the benefits of the new technology because he doesn't have to rescan everything at the checkout counter. But his wife, Kathy, is a bit uneasy, and every time she talks about the use of new technologies in traditional industries, she asks: