Grocery Store Shelves Go Digital with EDGE

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EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment), includes shelves that are 2 inches and 4 inches high by 47 inches wide. It is a digital shelf solution that supports full color and video. The installations are in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky. It consists of 2,500 shelves. The barriers to roll-out were cost, shelf life, customer acceptance and data integrity. EDGE overcame these barriers to create a system that has strong customer and associate acceptance. That customer acceptance resulted in significant sales lift.

Nominating Company: The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, Ohio
Venue: EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment), Cold Springs, Kentucky
Project: EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment)
Category: Retail

BACKGROUND
EDGE is changing the game for The Kroger Company in how the corporation provides pricing data and advertising. EDGE is comprised of both the physical shelf as well as the integration software enabling various shelf tasks. EDGE allows for diverse imagery, creative ads and creative content displays. This includes static images, animated images and full video. Thousands of the EDGE shelves can currently be found in 17 Kroger stores in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky. These shelves display real-time advertising, special offers and price data, ensuring the customer gets the most accurate information for the products they want. Current prices, advertising and offers can be updated immediately via the EDGE CMS. Kroger has been developing EDGE technology for several years. Those POTs have led to the current installation, which began last fall and completed in the spring. Kroger intends to take this to many additional stores in 2018.

CHALLENGES
EDGE faced several hurdles throughout the roll-out of the project including shelf price, shelf-life, data integrity and customer perception.

Kroger created a shelf at the right price point while still maintaining excellent shelf-life and good ROI. Many technologies exist that allow for shelf-edge displays, but at the scale needed to outfit Kroger’s aisles, the ROI would have been nonexistent. At a lower cost tier, the quality and shelf-life could have also been compromised thereby minimizing the solution’s ROI. No shelf display is worthwhile without accurate content. Deriving accurate, dynamic content from a paper-driven, batch-oriented system was a very difficult problem to solve. The most impactful problem was ensuring customer acceptance.

Customers are inundated daily with technology and advertisements on a daily basis. EDGE had to differentiate itself by making sure that the technology not only improved the way customers interacted within the stores, but that the overall execution was positively received.

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SOLUTIONS
Kroger Technology worked collaboratively with numerous partners to create EDGE. The shelf price goal was achieved by selecting existing technologies and applying them innovatively. This included novel and fresh uses of existing technologies in the optics, enclosure, motherboard, power supply and software areas.
The shelf-life obstacle was resolved by rigorous and iterative testing of EDGE in a real-world store environment. Many factors, including intensity, color, and placement, were adjusted in order to optimize shelf life and customer experience. Date integrity was addressed by working closely with internal business partners to thoroughly understand shelf-edge operations. The issues discovered were addressed by several dedicated agile-based software development teams. In order to gather and analyze customer perception information, the team leveraged its internal research company 84.51. 84.51 utilized customers intercepts and customer shop-along observations as well as some web-based questionnaires. This information was leveraged to modify the EDGE installation in order to garner exceptional customer approval.

RESULTS
The customer perception information collected by 84.51 found that EDGE has been exceptionally well received thus far, with customers believing that it shows Kroger as more innovative and environmentally friendly, while boosting sales. All concepts tested on the EDGE had a positive response and an overwhelming majority of customers responded favorably to the shelves. Favorable shoppers also thought the technology made Kroger seem more likely to be looking out for the best interests of associates and customers. Customers thought the EDGE shelves were more interesting, saved time, were easier to read and were more informative than paper tags and traditional shelf edge ads. Sales lift tests have indicated substantial increases in sales when dynamic, supporting advertisements are placed on EDGE. Dynamic ads at the point of purchase have proven to be well received and successful in increasing sales.

Kroger’s EDGE won a 2018 APEX Award in the Retail category.

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