Kroger and Microsoft are testing out two 'connected' grocery stores

An app and digital displays can guide customers as they shop.

Kroger and Microsoft have teamed up on a "connected store experience" that will provide customers with new ways to shop. The companies are piloting the experience at two Kroger stores -- one in Monroe, Ohio and another in Redmond, Washington -- and it represents the next step for their EDGE shelving system. Kroger and Microsoft announced EDGE, or Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment, last year, and it consists of digital shelving displays that can show pricing, promotions and nutritional information. With the pilot program, the companies are further incorporating EDGE into customers' shopping experience.

With the new system, shoppers will be able to create shopping lists in an app, which can then guide them through the store when they arrive. Additionally, the EDGE displays can show an image previously selected by the customer in order to help them spot the item they need. These same visual cues could be used to aid employees fulfilling pickup orders, making the process a bit easier and possibly a little faster. The system can also notify customers when something they're looking for is out of stock and let store staff know when stock is running low.

Kroger Connected Grocery Store

Connected grocery stores are becoming increasingly more prevalent with companies like Amazon, Walmart and Standard Cognition pursuing cashierless stores. And Kroger hasn't shied away from technology. It has continued to expand its self-checkout technology and last month, it added a driverless vehicle to its autonomous delivery fleet in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The technology in Kroger's pilot stores is powered by Microsoft Azure, and along with providing customers with a more personalized shopping experience, it also offers Kroger a new advertising-led revenue stream. "Using video analytics, personalized offers and advertisements can be presented based on customer demographics," the company said in a press release. Kroger says the two stores will help inform expansion plans this year and in the more distant future.

Image: Kroger