I had an excellent opportunity to attend the ComSpark 2018 Technology conference and got inspired by the keynote speech by the Chief Information Officer at The Kroger Company, Chris Hjelm. Since then I have always wanted to visit the Kroger in Monroe, OH where they are trying out their EDGE Shelf (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment). It is a shelving system that uses digital displays, instead of paper tags to indicate prices, promotions and nutritional and dietary information.
Reading about Kroger’s partnership with Microsoft to bring the Retail as a Service(RaaS) solution to market, kindled the curiosity more.
We love shopping at Kroger and it is our weekly routine to shop at their Tylersville location. Last Sunday, even though it was raining, we made up our mind to drive to Monroe location to experience the new technologies.

Scan, Bag, Go

Scan, Bag, Go lets you scan items that you pull off the shelf using a handheld device provided by Kroger.

Right after we entered the store, “Scan, Bag, Go” caught our attention. Scan, Bag, Go lets you scan items that you pull off the shelf using a handheld device provided by Kroger. We decided to try it out. We quickly glanced around to see if someone else is using this scanning device and nobody were. We convinced ourselves thinking that  others are using Kroger App in their phone. 
We forgot our Kroger plus card at home. So we tried to enter the phone number in the scanning device and struggled to find the “Enter” Key. It was hiding underneath the big “Scan” button. People like me are used to computer <Enter> key on the bottom right. Our immediate reaction was it could have been a better design considering user experience. 
After we figured out the basics, it was real fun! Our 10 year old had fun scanning and dropping the items in our reusable grocery bags in the shopping cart. The next hiccup was  scanning produce by weight. We were struggling to figure out ourselves when one young Kroger employee helped us kick-start. It is a 3 step process:
  • First we need to scan the barcode on the individual item or on the produce sign with the price. 
  • Then we need to scan the barcode near the scale. 
  • After that we need to actually weigh the produce. The weight will be displayed on the handheld scanner. After you accept, it gets added to your order.
The checkout seemed so easy since we just had to scan the barcode in the self-checkout section. For some reason it beeped and a Kroger associate came and asked if we have any product that was not scanned. She had to double-check and then remove one line item with some weird number(some $3-ish worth item) and we were good to go. It could have been due to some discrepancy between the barcode and QR code in some produce.
So basically we saved $3.00 due to some malfunctioning!!! 
“Scan, Bag, Go” will keep a running total making it easy to come in under budget on the weekly groceries. This we thought is a great feature!

EDGE Shelf (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment) was amazing! We saw the price change happening automatically without manual intervention and it was displaying specials.

Very impressive!

Connected by IoT sensors and powered by Microsoft Azure AI, EDGE Shelf should connect with Kroger’s “Scan, Bag, Go”, to create a unique guided shopping experience for customers. There is a lot of potential for selling digital advertisements.

To summarize, based on our shopping experience – I am not 100% sure if this will enhance store associate productivity considering all the support they had to provide to the novice users like me !
The idea is great; but the adoption to all these technologies by a normal every-day Kroger shopper is a long way to go!
As a technology enthusiast and huge fan of user experience-design, I am waiting to see more from Kroger. Until then our shopping in the smart technology transformed Kroger pilot store continues.