Will customers grow to love Walgreens’ digital cooler doors?

Discussion
Photo: Cooler Screens
Mar 15, 2022

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That’s the reaction of customers, CNN reports, to the decision by retailers to replace see-through cooler doors with opaque digital alternatives that are activated by the presence of shoppers to provide product information, prices and special deals.

Consumers have taken to social media to voice their complaints about the new doors.

One Twitter user, found by RetailWire, wrote, “Walgreens is replacing the basic glass transparent cooler doors with screens that of course serve you ads. I am tired.”

Another tweeted, “It wouldn’t be so annoying if the screen didn’t play bait and switch. The products on display are never in the cooler — you mostly find empty shelves.”

A Facebook user wrote, “This is supposed to ‘solve’ my problem as a consumer? No, definitely NOT! In fact, it’s going to add to my problems as a consumer ’cause when I suffer through the advertising waiting for the screen to show me which drinks are in what cooler, and I open that cooler to find it doesn’t contain the drink I want…I’m going to hunt down the store manager…”

The digital doors, to be clear, are not new to Walgreens. The drugstore retailer began testing the concept in 2018 and has rolled it out to thousands of stores since then.

The company behind the technology, Cooler Screens, says that 90 percent of the 2,200 consumers it has surveyed since February report having a positive experience across six key metrics, including product in-stock availability, store navigation, product selection, purchase decision, product appeal and content engagement.

Cooler Screens also reports that retail sales of products in stores with its 4K digital smart screens are significantly higher than comparable locations in the area. Sales of advertised products also do better than in stores with traditional doors.

The technology behind the digital doors is said to be “identity blind” and does not capture or store personal data on shoppers. It does, however, collect information on the numbers of people who walk in front of the doors as well as dwell time and door opens.

The company claims that its retail partners include Chevron, Get Go and Kroger, in addition to Walgreens. It says that it works with over 180 consumer packaged goods brands.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are the digital doors used by Walgreens a solution in search of a problem, as critics suggest, or is it a valuable tool for shoppers, stores and consumer brands? Which stakeholder group — consumers, retailers or brands — derives the most benefit from the technology?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The tweets speak for themselves – if, at minimum, the shelf is not stocked as the doors advertise, this tech is simply not consumer-friendly. "
"Shoppers hate it because it’s stupid."
"I like it! It will freshen the look of a Walgreens and make them appear more upscale and savvy."

Join the Discussion!

41 Comments on "Will customers grow to love Walgreens’ digital cooler doors?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I am sure digital doors have some use for retailers – most likely the capture of data and perhaps from marketing fees. However, from a customer perspective, they are pretty useless. They don’t solve a problem. They cause friction if the products they advertise are not inside the fridge. And they’re gimmicky. Even the supplier’s claim that people have had a “positive experience” when using them is somewhat laughable. People are simply picking up a bottle of water, milk, or soda not going on a ride at Disneyland!

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Digital is supposed to make physical more convenient. The displays themselves aren’t the problem, but making consumers wait through ads is never a good idea. Consumers will adjust to the displays if retailers leverage them for a faster, more efficient experience.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The intention of this technology is good, but in practice it has challenges. Retailers are interested in driving sales and this type of technology can be useful in this regard. But as the customer comments suggest, when it doesn’t work it can produce the exact opposite result. And while the technology provider claims that sales in stores with these coolers are higher than those without, this could be a function of these stores simply having more store traffic – a better measure would be conversion rates of these products. Ultimately, technology deployed in stores should be beneficial to consumers and retailers.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Customers won’t love anything until it solves a problem or serves their purposes. Any one-sided benefit for the retailer most likely is going to annoy the customer. any exposed technology has to serve a customer purpose and be a pleasant experience.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Yeah, Bob. I, too, am hard pressed to see the problem it solves.

Katie Thomas
BrainTrust

The tweets speak for themselves – if, at minimum, the shelf is not stocked as the doors advertise, this tech is simply not consumer-friendly.

In general, consumers are increasingly annoyed by advertisements – even calling out influencers for obviously paid endorsements. For cooler screens to succeed, they need to a.) start by winning at function and b.) get more creative.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Shoppers hate it because it’s stupid. No one needs to be entertained with ads while buying a gallon of milk. There may be uses for digital doors but the coolers at Walgreens isn’t one of them. Listen to your customers, they’re smarter than you.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Could you please tell the world how you really feel about this idea? 🙂

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

WYSIWYG.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Have I told you how wonderful you are lately?

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

We are a mutual admiration society. Leopard and sequins, baby!

David Slavick
BrainTrust

Wise up, this is a revenue driver. Retailers have created in-house media companies to support ad impressions fueled by CPG and F&B media funds. The tracking mechanisms is part of the business case. This has nothing to do with being consumer friendly and everything to do with maximizing store revenue through technology.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Wait — shoppers don’t like ads?! For this to have any chance of success it needs to be more relevant to shoppers at worst and solve a problem at best. Hiding products behind the advertising walls is not a good solution. Perhaps messages should go away as shoppers approach?

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Remember when you could watch a video on YouTube without suffering through an ad first? At some point customers will revolt — and this seems to be that point.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

A good idea that isn’t executed well has bad results. The issues that cause problems look to be the fault of the retailer, not the technology. If it’s in the retailer’s control (Walgreens or any other retailer), then the internal process needs to be properly executed.

Cooler Screens says that 90 percent of consumer are happy. I’m a little concerned that 10 percent are unhappy. That number is just too high. This isn’t brand new, so the kinks should be worked out.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This is proving that tech and digital for the sake of tech and digital is not the answer. What was so compelling about the test that prompted the roll out? What was so loved in the test only to be so wildly hated in the roll out?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I think the decision makers only saw the dollars they could generate from the ads. I too question the research. They could have just asked the customer how they would feel about seeing an ad each time they bought a Gatorade. So much for customer-centric.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

When I first saw these a few years ago, I thought – what a cool idea, using digital signage to advertise or market cooler items instead of using signage to promote.

But I have also, like the customers in the article, been annoyed when all my choices are out of stock (cooler vendors are still having major supply chain issues). What if it told customers which spaces were out of stock? I don’t know if that would help, but it would save me from opening the door and finding that out after the fact.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Walgreens needs to decide if it’s in business to serve its customers, or serve its customers ads. This might appear to be a great new revenue stream, but if no one comes in the store, it won’t matter.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

My colleagues have covered all the problems with this idea, which forgets what is good for the customer.

So much for running in and quickly picking up a Coke. This idea may actually depress beverage sales and also traffic.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

It will take getting used to and the complaints will be minimized if the out-of-stock issues are resolved.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

Hey Walgreens, this pilot program with Cooler Screens technology is not working. Deploying a retail media network in-store where shoppers want to simply grab a drink and go is the wrong collaboration. I’d rather see a technology here that offers a QR code and delivers my drink of choice to me efficiently and quickly. Give me that and you can collect data and also keep a happy customer!

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
2 months 7 days ago

A major focus for retailers right now is expanding their RMNs (Retail Media Networks). I see this less as a strategy to solve a problem and more of a potential to create semi-digital ad space. This is sure to be monetized by Walgreens.

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

I like it! It will freshen the look of a Walgreens and make them appear more upscale and savvy. It reminds me of South Korea’s digital grocery shopping where you can shop while waiting for the train and your groceries are delivered by the time you get home.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

One thing about these cooler doors; if you make your choice and open it and there is an out-of-stock, your assumption could very well be that the store is out-of-stock. Therefore your options are to leave or open and close other doors to check. But don’t forget: those doors are also bringing attention to products. So we have silent sales people working. I’m neutral.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

if it ain’t broke … — perfect sentiment. It hadn’t even occurred to me that that items on the screen might not be in the cooler. As a customer, if I saw my favorite item on a cooler door screen and opened it to find that it’s not actually in the cooler, I’d be really frustrated. Enough to walk out, honestly.

I also think consumers are getting more and more sensitive to being pitched to at every possible interaction. It’s tiresome.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

As stores evolve as omnichannel destinations, it’s exciting to see Walgreens experiment with in-store tech.

Digital doors give shoppers a unique experience and more product data while protecting their privacy.
Consumer brands stand out with digital ads and exclusive promotions that influence in-store shoppers as they decide what to buy.

Stores win the most if digital doors boost traffic as well as sales of merchandise and ads. That’s why major retailers are investing in more digital communications in stores.

However, retailers will need to proactively manage inventory and limit ad length to reduce shoppers’ frustrations with digital doors.

Rick Wilson
Guest

This is a miscalculated gimmick which dehumanizes the shopping experience and adds another hurdle between the shopper and the product. It’ll quickly go the way of New Coke. However that doesn’t mean there is no place for digital integration in the drink case. The “trick” will be adding value for the customer with technology. So what information would foster a positive, successful, enjoyable buying experience? Visually and physically blocking a view of the product with a Vegas-style ad blitz isn’t it.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

The beauty of retail is physical. Clear doors are part of seeing the physical product available in the cooler. Walgreens has been sucked in by some digital vendor with another shiny bauble — but this one isn’t just meaningless, it actively impedes the reason physical retail exists. Shame on Walgreens for buying into what these vendors were selling.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Immersive digital experiences should add to the customer journey and not bring on more friction or confusion. Retailers have been challenged to drive connected experiences and weave digital elements into the physical stores. Walgreens and other retailers have experimented in this space, and it could potentially yield benefits if the digital coolers add to the experiences.

Ultimately it will come down to execution, with a well-merchandised cooler that reflects the promise of the digital screen.

David Spear
BrainTrust

My experience with these screens evokes a similar reaction as noted by many of the consumer tweets. Digital transformation should enhance the experience, not aggravate it. If consumers don’t immediately see and experience benefit, then the half-life of these innovations may be quite short.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Well, first of all, what a surprise that a survey sponsored, administered, and analyzed by a vendor found the vendor was doing just fine, thank you! Amazing! Now, let’s get serious. Obviously, the doors are there to push product for branders and (hopefully) generate ad revenue for Walgreens. Consumers it seems aren’t an integral part of the equation. The most important thing any retailer can do is listen to the consumer. Now, in fairness, it takes consumers time to adjust to any technology, even those that eventually become fixtures of daily life like ATMs and mobile phones. But, four years is a long learning curve. If people are still fighting it maybe it’s past time to put back the old doors.

Lucille DeHart
BrainTrust

This is a prime example of retailers implementing technology to benefit themselves rather than solving for customer friction. The doors, in theory, allow for the stores to monitor customer behavior – linger time, selection, shopper engagement. What is the benefit to shoppers?

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

The main reason for coolers to have glass doors is so customers can see what is available before they open the door. If the inventory isn’t there then customers will just get frustrated – as indicated by the social media posts. Is there really enough of a benefit for Walgreens to outweigh the irritation their customers currently feel?

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Unfortunately, the current design is not consumer focused, does little to improve the customer experience, and has proven to be an annoyance based on customer feedback. The metrics tech can be installed without a screen and without hampering the customer at a “convenience” store. Walgreens is missing their key market advantage. The retailer may be able to gain some advantage for showing off a cleaner store, more high tech — but even these factors need to be more subtle. ESL has some renewed potential, but overwhelming the customer is not how you do it.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

I just experienced this in NOLA last weekend on Canal Street. The video screen promises a fully stocked cooler based on the visual, but then you open it, and it’s a bunch of sad reject bottles at the bottom of the cooler and empty shelves. Doesn’t make me want to return.

Gwen Morrison
BrainTrust

I love the look of digital doors from a distance. Chill and Freezer doors present a physical barrier to shoppers who need to practically get eye to eye with the packaging in order to discern what the product is. The dynamic, animated images bring the category to life. However there needs to be a link between the exterior door graphics and the products inside. Surely technology can solve for this. Until then, it’s confusing and even misleading for the shopper.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“The products on display are never in the cooler — you mostly find empty shelves.” What more need be said? The question here shouldn’t be who’s gaining, it’s who’s losing: and since it appears to be the customer, that should be the end of it.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Do these coverings present the message they are seriously in-stock? If so … they better be!

Chris Weigand
Guest
2 months 7 days ago

Maybe I had a long day, but I thought we were past putting TV screens in retail for the sake of putting TV screens in retail. This is not helping humans who are already bombarded by digital screens; not helping them shop for a planned or impromptu purchase of beverages. The human brain can judge inventory more quickly by seeing actual items, and if you must use digital make sure it’s one to one with what’s behind the door. If these were vending machines, that would be a better application. We can do better as a society than this.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

I don’t think digital doors will be of much value for shoppers. Digital doors seem to ruin the personalized shopping experience. Customers have a glance at the drinks through the glass doors and buy them instantly. An easy conversion! But digital doors add resistance to this experience since customers won’t like waiting for the doors to first display what’s inside and then search for it inside the refrigerators. It also slows down the visual mapping of product image/content with the actual item inside.

However having said that, Walgreens can make good use of digital doors and foster healthy brand values. Digital doors can cut down the impulse buying of cold and preservative-added drinks as they are not ideal for consumption. By hiding those drinks behind an opaque door, Walgreens would be able to push customers to go for healthy products and ignore those unhealthy alternatives. For example, in Western Australia, there’s a display ban on tobacco and smoking items. Not displaying those items on shelves helps reduce their consumption by the public.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The tweets speak for themselves – if, at minimum, the shelf is not stocked as the doors advertise, this tech is simply not consumer-friendly. "
"Shoppers hate it because it’s stupid."
"I like it! It will freshen the look of a Walgreens and make them appear more upscale and savvy."

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