Late last year, The Kroger Co. supermarket chain announced it would split its cloud investment between Microsoft and Google. At least in part, the reason was to avoid putting more money in retail-rival Amazon's pockets, Kroger officials said.
On January 7, Microsoft and Kroger provided more details about the Azure piece of its digital-retail strategy. Kroger is building a retail-as-a-service offering on top of Azure and will use some Azure AI technologies. Microsoft and Azure will jointly market Kroger's commercial retail-as-a-service (RaaS) product based on this solution to other retailers, officials said.
Azure will store and process data generated in stores, near smart shelves and on Kroger's application. The coming RaaS will use Kroger's Edge (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment) Shelf, which is a smart shelving system using digital displays to show prices, promotions and nutritional and dietary information. Edge Shelf also will connect to Kroger's Scan, Bag and Go system.
Microsoft and Kroger are calling the coming RaaS product as “enablement software built by a retailer for retailers.” Kroger is including Scan, Bag, Go, Virtual Store Manager, a sensor network and connectors to corporate point-of-sale, inventory management and tag and merchandising systems as pieces of the coming offering. The first of these, Edge Shelf, will be shown off at the NRF 2019 show in New York in the Microsoft booth next week.
Microsoft and Kroger officials told Bloomberg the two have been collaborating over the past 18 months, and that the resulting digital-shelving system is now at the end of the aisles of 92 of Kroger's more than 2,700 supermarkets.
Microsoft has been capitalizing on retailers' worries about Amazon as a competitor as a way to get more retailers to commit to the Azure platform. Walmart is another of Microsoft's Azure customers.