CINCINNATI – The Kroger Co. has partnered with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. in a collaborative effort designed to transform consumers’ shopping experience. The two companies plan to use Kroger Technology products powered by Microsoft Azure to connect consumers to data and technology.

“Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide our customers with personalized food inspiration,” said W. Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger. “We are identifying partners through Restock Kroger who will help us reinvent the customer experience and create new profit streams that will also accelerate our core business growth. We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to redefine grocery retail.”

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said the partnership has the ability “to redefine the shopping experience for millions of customers at both Kroger and other retailers around the world, setting a new standard for innovation in the industry.”

According to the two companies, the Kroger Technology team has developed a smart technology system, powered by Microsoft Azure and connected by IoT [Internet of Things] sensors, to transform two pilot stores located in Monroe, Ohio, and Redmond. The pilot stores will be able to use Microsoft Azure to store and process data generated in each store, near smart shelves and on Kroger’s app. That information will then be used in a variety of ways, including as a foundation for EDGE Shelf (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment).

Kroger MicrosoftKroger described EDGE Shelf as a shelving system that uses digital displays, instead of traditional paper tags, to display everything from prices and promotions to nutritional and dietary information. The retailer also said EDGE Shelf will allow it to generate new revenue by selling digital advertising space to consumer packaged goods companies.

In addition to giving consumers more information digitally on site, the EDGE Shelf system is expected to make it easier for retailers to fulfill curbside pickup orders and to address out-of-stocks quicker, Kroger said.

The partnership between Kroger and Microsoft follows last year’s move by Inc. to acquire Whole Foods Market. A Bloomberg report last year said Amazon management is considering plans to open 3,000 Amazon Go outlets nationwide, which offer consumers a “just walk out” shopping experience with no cash register. The brick-and-mortar concept is app-based and allows shoppers to fill their shopping bags and simply walk out. Scanners tabulate the bill and charge a credit card on file.

Meanwhile, Walmart is piloting a crowd-sourced delivery platform called Spark Delivery in four US markets. The company also is experimenting with a new system that automates grocery selection for online orders.