Hannaford has launched a tech-focused pilot store in Portland, Maine, featuring digital shelves that promote certain product categories and make shopping more convenient, according to Central Maine. The 181-store supermarket retailer wants to see whether the solutions will lead to increased sales and a better customer experience before rolling out the concept at other locations.
The connected shelves offer a number of features designed to assist shoppers:
- Cold storage cases with semitransparent LED displays featuring ads for the products inside;
- Shelves equipped with sensors that can determine which product a customer has picked up; and
- Fixed tablet screens for customers to browse detailed product information about items.
Additionally, the store features a touchscreen kiosk near the pharmacy, where shoppers can search for information about over-the-counter medications and supplements. They can also type in the name of a health condition for information about the best products to treat it.
Other supermarkets are embracing the potential offered by smart shelves, with Kroger among the technology’s early adopters. The retailer has rolled out EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment), a system of shelf-edge high-resolution screens that display prices, nutrition and allergy information, videos and images at more than 20 stores.
Even though smart shelves may be replicating tasks that shoppers could handle with their own mobile devices, this may prove to be a strength of the technology. If shoppers engage with readily available screens in the store rather than constantly referencing their own devices, there’s a potential to reduce screen fatigue.
“Without question, as screen fatigue continues to expand, smart shelf technology will be popular with shoppers,” said Dave Bruno, Marketing Director at Aptos in a RetailWire discussion. “As crazy as it may seem, screen fatigue is a real thing. If you don’t believe me, just ask Alexa. The more we can eliminate the need for people to open their phones, download apps, scan codes, etc., the higher the potential for engagement. The question (and ongoing, evolving challenge) for Hannaford will be whether the content they are presenting at the shelf significantly impacts conversions.”
At the pilot store, Hannaford also has upgraded fixtures, assortments and the overall design. . The retailer extended shelves to a greater height and added approximately 1,500 new items, with a focus on natural and organic products. New endcaps show off local products, while organic items are located on special curved shelves. Additionally, the store has a new area near the pharmacy that is divided into three color-coded sections: active lifestyle (green), health care (blue) and beauty (yellow).