Your next Walgreens trip might look more high-tech: Talking Tech podcast – USA TODAY

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Hey there, listeners, it’s Brett Molina. Welcome back to Talking Tech. I’m not sure the last time you went to Walgreens, but if it’s been a while and you happen to find yourself in the refrigerated or frozen food aisles of the pharmacy, you might notice that the experience looks a little bit different and a lot more high-tech.

I write about this in a story that you can read on The pharmacy chain recently rolled out digital screens to replace the traditional doors that you would see in those frozen food or refrigerated coolers. Some consumers, not too thrilled about it. Let’s start with the doors though. They were created in partnership with a startup called cooler screens. It’s a company that is building technology that they say is going to give consumers the experience in-store that’s similar to what they would get shopping online.

Couple years ago, the company announced plans to roll out the screens to 50 Walgreens stores in Chicago. After that roll out, the plan was to expand to an additional 2500 Walgreens locations. We spoke to Walgreens and confirmed they launched a pilot in 2019, and the technology is currently available in less than 700 of their stores.

So what exactly does it do? Going off of a demo on the Cooler Screens website, as well as some videos on YouTube, basically these digital doors have all the products that you would see inside the coolers right out front. They’ll recognize when a shopper walks by. The screen will show the items that are there. It’ll show prices. It’ll show sales. If something is on sale, you’ll see it highlighted. It’ll have some other details too. The other big thing is, they will display giant ads on these screens. So if you’re not directly in front of it, you’ll just see an ad. And then when you walk up, you’ll see the details of what’s actually inside the cooler.

It’s interesting because some of the other details too on these doors are, you can see nutritional information right away. You can see reviews of the products. They’ll also, on the door, it’ll recommend other products. So if you’re buying something and they think, “Oh, you might like this too,” it’ll do that also. A lot of these digital screens and menus aren’t new. I mean, we’ve seen McDonald’s do this where they have the super cool digital menus now that we’ve seen in the drive throughs, things like that.

It’s really interesting. I mean, there are some consumers that really hate it. I get it. Some people talking on Twitter about how it just feels like you’re just getting thrust with ads in your face all the time. And a lot of people saying they really don’t want to shop at Walgreens.

Introducing technology like this, it’s interesting because it’s straddling the line between you’re trying to provide information, but then it can also feel a little bit invasive and intrusive to the point where, yeah, you feel like you’re being smacked in the face with ads nonstop. You want to get a pint of ice cream. You don’t want to get an ad thrown in your face, you know what I mean? It’s just, that’s it.

And so, I get some of the frustration a lot of consumers are having. And I’m going to be interested to see what Walgreens does in response to this. I think this is something they’re going to probably continue to roll out as far as I can tell. And obviously, they haven’t said anything to the contrary. They’ve talked about their commitment to innovating and trying to offer some new experiences for their shoppers. But we’ll see where those lines cross, and what’s some of the technologies that people really embrace and what are some that just feel like it’s too much in my face.

Also, I think the biggest thing a lot of people don’t like is the fact that these doors feel like a vehicle for just advertising. And it’s like, what’s the use of it? You already have labels on these shelves. You can see everything anyway. This just feels like another excuse to advertise. We’ll see how this goes.

You can read more about Walgreens, you can read more about our coverage of these kind of digital advancements on Listeners, let’s hear from you. Do you have any comments, questions, or show ideas? Any tech problems you want us to try to address? You can find me on Twitter @BrettMolina23. Please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcasts. You’ve been listening to Talking Tech. We’ll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.