Kroger is piloting the latest and greatest in digital shelves, Publix is starting online cooking classes, and both developments create opportunities for produce marketers.

Let’s start with Publix. Its new online cooking classes are accompanied by recipes, and I noticed that one of the fresh-cut produce ingredients listed was a branded item.

I would expect an investment was made to get the company name in the recipe — none of the other produce items in there were branded — and I would argue the investment was a good one.

The best retailers are trusted by their shoppers. It stands to reason, then, that if a person is filling her cart based on a recipe suggested by her grocery store, she will likely at least consider buying the specific product recommended. Even if she does not buy it, she has now been introduced to the brand, and the brand has gotten a de facto endorsement from the retailer by being included in the recipe.

Looking for opportunities to have your brand mentioned in recipes on retailer sites will become even more important as online grocery shopping grows.

“Shoppable” recipes, which allow a consumer to simply click an ingredient and have it added to her cart, are a big opportunity.

Now on to Kroger, whose news is not as straightforward but potentially transformational. Kroger is both piloting and selling, in collaboration with Microsoft, a product known as retail-as-a-service (RaaS).

A key element of the system is the EDGE Shelf, which allows retailers to display not only prices but also promotions. The technology can also activate signals on the shelf so products can be found more easily by an employee picking items for an online order or by a consumer shopping from a list she created on the app for the store.

Another aspect of the system Kroger is piloting is video analytics, which will allow the retailer to target shoppers with personalized offers on the shelves as they shop.

I checked with the retailer to make sure I understood how exactly that works. Turns out it works pretty much like it sounds: In the stores where this technology is being piloted, cameras can see me walking through an aisle, recognize that I am a woman in my 20s, and the digital shelves pop up promotions or ads that data show might be of interest to women in their 20s.

We’ll skip the question of whether people want to be observed, tracked and their movements converted to data as they shop. That’s another column entirely. We’ll stay focused on implications for marketers.

Kroger will be selling advertising space on these digital shelves, and video analytics allow the retailer to target those ads to shoppers most likely to be interested. If I were a marketer, that space would sound awfully appealing to me — as would any insights the retailer might share on demographics and how those correspond with purchase behavior in stores.

To sum up: Two more moves by retailers, two more opportunities for produce marketers.


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