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.