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Lo-res_638771995-SA recent high-tech option aims to replace traditional glass cooler doors in Walgreens convenience stores with smart, interactive digital screens. The products on display may remain the same, but the way they are displayed appears poised to change radically.

The high-tech screens start with particular images, likely rows of beverages or frozen treats that mimic their positions on the racks inside the coolers. In this, the look would be similar to what shoppers encounter in virtually any convenience store when they stop for a quick drink. But as they approach, the smart screens would gauge their identity and switch to a display more targeted to their likely needs. A young shopper might get a vision of a Yoohoo; an adult might see a promotion for beer.

As the shopper views the screen, sensors in the door and within the cooler itself also measure what items have attracted his or her attention. If a display keeps a consumer’s eye gaze for an extended period, the marketer gains valuable insight that its promotion is working. But if that consumer then opens the door and grabs a different product, it learns that it needs a different approach to prompt a sale.

The sensors also provide benefits to the retailer, by alerting it to low stock levels, such that it can avoid any stockouts that are likely to frustrate drug and convenience store consumers who want to find what they need quickly. Furthermore, retailers can shift and alter the promotional displays quickly and easily, enabling them to promote ice cream on cold days or sports drinks if they appear on the route of a local marathon event.

Although the smart screens on cooler doors are a notable innovation, they are not the first screens in existence to adjust their advertising messages based on information about the person viewing them. In Australia and the United Kingdom, billboards promoting the Movember men’s health public information campaign (which encourages men not to shave during the month of November, as well as to visit their doctor for annual health checks) switched their contents, depending on whether an approaching consumer had facial hair or not.

In addition, the company that came up with the in-store technology, called Cooler Screens, thus far has only entered into a partnership with Walgreens. Its products remain available to other retailers, such that grocers might implement the doors for their freezer cases to help shoppers pick out the best frozen pizza (e.g., a bigger portion size for families), or ice cream shops might add them if they want to give customers more options or promote certain new flavors. On the supplier side, Cooler Screens already has secured agreements with several big name brands, such as Nestlé and MillerCoors, to include their offerings in the software driving its smart doors.

Although still in their pilot phase, the doors thus seem to offer benefits for all the stakeholders involved: the innovator that came up with the idea, the retailers that want to sell more products, the suppliers that want to highlight their products in stores, and the consumers who want easy and convenient access to appealing product options.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are smart cooler doors likely to be successful and spread to various retailers? Justify your answer.
  2. What other possible applications can you imagine for such smart doors?



Source: Lara O’Reilly, “Walgreens Tests Digital Cooler Doors with Cameras to Target You with Ads,” The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2019