Microsoft's retail ambitions are shaping up: American chain Kroger is testing its digital shelves and artificial intelligence in two stores. In addition, it wants to sell the technology to other retailers.
Virtual store manager
Microsoft clearly intends to compete with Amazon in the market of cloud services and digital retail technology, and a large American retailer like Kroger is of course unwilling to fund a direct competitor. The two therefore are natural allies to seek out alternatives together: in two stores (near both partners' headquarters in Cincinnati and Redmond) tests are being run involving digital shelves and a self-checkout smartphone application. "Together we can create something that, separately, we could not," they say.
Customers who use the app are led through the store based on their shopping list. When they approach an item on their list, an icon in the digital shelf lights up. The same technology is being used to allow store employees to find products more quickly when they set aside online orders. Kroger will also be using artificial intelligence to attune products and advertisements more precisely to the shoppers' preferences.
In addition, the shelves have sensors connected to the cloud that can monitor supplies. Both partners are also working on a virtual store manager who can alert employees when there are not enough shopping carts at the entrance. Interestingly, Kroger also has plans to sell these applications to other retailers and generate additional revenue. Similarly, Microsoft is already working together with Walmart as well: the store chain uses their cloud services, the Azure web platform and their big data expertise. Macy's and Ahold Delhaize also make use of Microsoft technology.