Amazon Go took the world by storm a year ago, demonstrating that the possibility of a cashierless store where checkout is automatically enabled by AI and sensors is not a thing of the future but of the present. Having not so coincidentally scooped up a major grocery chain in Whole Foods, the stage has been set for some time for Amazon to revolutionize the grocery industry, perhaps even selling its technology to third parties in an effort to open a new revenue stream and remake the industry altogether.
Now, Microsoft and Kroger are teaming up, challenging Amazon’s dominance in grocery innovation and pushing back against its takeover of an increasing number of corporate verticals, including cloud infrastructure in the form of Amazon Web Services. (Street Fight’s Mike Boland has predicted that Amazon will sell its grocery tech just as it’s done with AWS, taking an in-house innovation and transforming it into a cash cow.)
“The two outfitted Kroger locations, in Monroe, Ohio and Redmond, Wash., will feature digital shelving displays with real-time price updates and product information, as well as digital advertisements personalized to each shopper,” CNBC published on Monday.
The news of the Microsoft-Kroger partnership dovetails with a report from RBC Capital Markets indicating that Amazon’s cashierless grocery stores take in 50% more revenue than conventional counterparts. Amazon has said it may open up as many as 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021, suggesting the possibility of a $4.5 billion business.
Microsoft and Amazon aren’t the only tech companies pushing the limits of grocery, either. Standard Cognition is often covered as an Amazon Go competitor but isn’t quite that at this stage of Amazon’s game, seeing as its not a grocery proprietor but a vendor selling to grocery stores. Still, the tech it sells is similar to what Amazon’s trying to do and what Microsoft may be aiming for soon with Kroger: enabling cashierless checkout for grocery stores, potentially democratizing the model.
Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s managing editor.