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Microsoft partners up with Kroger to create digitally advanced grocery stores

Microsoft has today announced that it will be collaborating with America's grocery retailer Kroger in order to introduce innovative digital solutions that will help transform the customer experience. To that end, the tech giant will be helping Kroger in transforming two new "connected experience" stores. Simultaneously, both companies will be marketing a joint Retail as a Service (RaaS) solution commercially.

The two pilot stores chosen are located in Monroe, Ohio, near Kroger's headquarters and Redmond, Washington, the city where Microsoft's headquarters are situated. Kroger has developed a smart technology system that is powered by Microsoft Azure and connected by IOT sensors, to remodel both stores using RaaS, in a way that creates a much more personalized customer experience. Store-deployment for this system is planned to continue in 2019 and beyond.

The digitally transformed stores will boast cutting-edge shopping technology, such as the EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment) Shelf. This new shelving system will be using Azure AI to connect with already present Kroger services. Furthermore, it will feature digital displays instead of paper tags to notify customers with data relating to product pricing, promotions, and even nutritional and dietary information.

Store associates will be able to benefit from the newly provided services as well, which include visual cues to aid them in finding items, Azure-powered video analytics to identify products that are out of stock, and more. The new displays will also help the grocery retailer earn more revenue through digital advertising, while the aforementioned video analytics will be able to help personalize offers and advertisements.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, commented on the partnership, noting:

"Our partnership brings together Kroger’s world-class expertise in the grocery industry with the power of Azure and Azure AI. Together, we will redefine the shopping experience for millions of customers at both Kroger and other retailers around the world, setting a new standard for innovation in the industry."

Kroger Chairman Rodney McMullen also expressed his delight at the team-up, mentioning how this collaboration could "redefine grocery retail" in the future. He also stated that the company is identifying other potential business partners to accelerate its business growth as well.

All these new capabilities, and a host of others, are provided under the RaaS product, which will be brought to the market by Kroger in partnership with Microsoft in the future. The initial features will first be shown off at the NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show in New York in the Microsoft booth (#3301). Further details regarding the partnership will be provided in a keynote being delivered at the event on January 13, at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Notably, Microsoft has particularly been aiming accelerate the transformation of retail as has been indicated by some of its ventures in the past few months. A prime example of this is its collaboration with Walmart on the same front multiple times in the past, which could include the possibility of radical changes in retail in the future, such as the elimination of checkout lines and cashiers.

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