In Brief

As the pharmacy chain tests new in-store shopper marketing technology, PSFK gleans exclusive insight into how the tech and ads work as well as how consumers are responding so far

Walgreens announced last week that it is testing new technology at a store in Chicago that embeds cameras, sensors and digital screens into its in-store cooler and freezer doors, aiming to create a network of smart displays that marketers can use to target ads for specific types of shoppers as well as other factors like weather conditions.

PSFK identified and visited the Chicago Walgreens store, located at 151 North State Street in the windy city, where the technology is being tested in real time, allowing the location’s refrigerator and freezer doors to act as a targeted digital merchandising platform personalized for consumers who approach the display cases.

The “smart” coolers are equipped with face-detection software that detect shoppers’ gender and age. The cameras and sensors inside the coolers can also determine which items shoppers’ picked up or looked at, which gives advertisers insights into whether or not the on-screen promotions they paid for worked.

One of the objectives of the cooler door technology is for it to provide brick-and-mortar stores with a marketplace similar to online advertising. For example, certain beverages can be targeted to young people—perhaps energy drinks or kombucha. Additionally, during a heat wave, an ice cream brand can gain an edge by being featured in ads on its freezer case’s screen.

The retail landscape is increasingly phygital—merging the physical and digital, and even mass retailers like Walgreens are continuing to experiment with new dynamics between the two. Chicago-based retail industry consultant Michelle Weisberg has been conducting observational research on these efforts at the State and Randolph Walgreens since the “smart” cooler test started. Analyzing what she’s observed thus far, she had this to say about the in-store targeted ad initiative: “The idea of technology merging with creativity to enhance the visibility of consumer food products is extremely appealing. The cooler door graphics are clear, bright and vibrant and it’s extremely impressive how they incorporated a lot of great product information, including if the product was USDA Organic, Gluten Free or Kosher.”

In terms of  the effect on consumer behavior she’s noted thus far, Weisberg says, “Since this Walgreens store is located in a very high foot-traffic area, dominated by an abundance of office workers and tourists, the customers mostly shop impulse driven snacks and beverages, in the same fashion they visit a convenience store. My primary observation so far is most of them have just quickly opened the door, looked inside and reached in and made their selection, without even noticing that the graphics of the products were changing on the outside of the doors. This is observational data Walgreens might want to factor in to their test,” Weisberg says.

Research and analytics are still underway. Walgreens says it plans to extend the pilot at the State and Randolph store in Chicage to five more stores in San Francisco, Seattle and Manhattan by the end of January.

Walgreens

Walgreens announced last week that it is testing new technology at a store in Chicago that embeds cameras, sensors and digital screens into its in-store cooler and freezer doors, aiming to create a network of smart displays that marketers can use to target ads for specific types of shoppers as well as other factors like weather conditions.

PSFK identified and visited the Chicago Walgreens store, located at 151 North State Street in the windy city, where the technology is being tested in real time, allowing the location’s refrigerator and freezer doors to act as a targeted digital merchandising platform personalized for consumers who approach the display cases.