Walgreens launches coolers with IoT-connected advertising


Targeted online point-of-purchase marketing has been miles ahead of the in-store experience for years. It is simply easier to collect and utilize data when customer decision-making patterns can easily be tracked and narrowed into a finite set of options.

Until recently, the in-store experience has been much more challenging. The technology to read and track the decision-making process is infinitely more complex, involving eye tracking, computer learning and agile IoT (Internet of Things) solutions to even get close to the online experience. Over the past year, however, we’ve seen a number of breakthroughs in technology at the shelf, including Amazon Go Stores and Kroger and Microsoft’s collaboration to create smart shelves.

One new technology that has recently begun rolling out in 2019 is Cooler Screens. The Chicago-based company has launched a new pilot program in collaboration with Walgreens to replace the doors to food and beverage coolers with IoT-connected displays that show targeted ads to customers in the store.

Cooler Screens use eye tracking and computer vision to learn what products customers are looking at, profile their age and gender, and then deliver targeted marketing messages right on the cooler door.

The technology within the Cooler Screens displays serves several other purposes. Digitized planograms never look disorganized and give products optimal visibility. They track inventory levels in real time, notifying the appropriate parties of product outages and tracking the effectiveness of marketing tactics.

Furthermore, the Cooler Screens technology utilizes A.I. and machine learning to personalize the advertising messages to the consumer, and can customize the ads served based on conditions like weather, events and more. This inside look into consumers’ behavior against different variables will allow brands to A/B test their marketing messages, packaging and ad designs in a very scientific way more quickly and with more accuracy right in the store environment.

This convergence of things that might be traditionally considered “eCommerce tactics” with the “brick-and-mortar” format is a surging trend. Just a couple of weeks ago, McDonalds made waves by acquiring Dynamic Yield for $300 million as part of an effort to revamp their drive thru menus with dynamic digital displays that feature real time marketing.

Similar to Cooler Screens ad displays, McDonalds new drive thru displays will see the incoming customer and display a customized version of the menu that will market and upsell the items it determines the customer is most likely to buy. And like Cooler Screens, the McDonalds displays will weigh in factors like weather, store traffic, time of day, and other data points to determine the version of the menu to display.

These, along with technologies like smart shelves, app-based in-store navigation and tablet-equipped shopping carts are just a few ways retailers are increasingly incorporating technology to gather more data from customers, amp up their marketing tactics, and build a more seamless retail experience. With new competition from Amazon Go stores entering the market, it is easy to see why businesses like Walgreens would be quick to adopt smart technologies they feel will keep them competitive against an aggressive tech-driven competitor.

What do you think about these new Cooler Screens? What other types of point-of-purchase technology have caught your eye? We’d love to know what you think. Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.