Stepping into a store, opening a fridge, and grabbing a drink is a process we hardly think about. Walgreens, however, sees it as yet another chance to pepper you with advertising — and make real-life shopping a little weird in the process.
Using cameras and sensors, the chain's new fridge and freezer doors feature digital screens that depict the food and drinks inside, but also project targeted ads based on everything from the temperature outdoors to the shopper's demographics, thanks to face-detection tech. The digital doors also give Walgreens a chance to make some cash not just from product sales, but from letting brands buy advertising space. Those who opt to advertise on the doors can also find out whether their ads are resulting in sales.
Whether customers feel they're getting any benefit, however, is a little less clear.
So far, many customers aren't impressed — and some have even hatched bizarre conspiracy theories about the doors scanning shoppers for the "mark of the beast." In this case, the theory goes that the fridges will eventually be locked unless they detect that a shopper is vaccinated against COVID-19.
@the.other.james.cameron @walgreens I don't think this is an improvement #energyefficient #2021Recap #OKPerfect #ComfortFood #fyp ♬ Shopping - Barenaked Ladies
There are also videos pointing out that the fully stocked images on the screens are sometimes a far cry from what customers really find inside, which can be disappointingly empty shelves or products that aren't quite as pristine. Other shoppers have complained that they're being forced to watch ads when they really just want to grab a particular product and go.
Walgreens began testing the high-tech doors in 2018, and now they are in about 2,000 of the chain's roughly 9,000 stores, according to CNN. The company behind the technology, Cooler Screens, says its surveys show a strong customer preference for the digital screens, with 90% saying they like them more than peering through a traditional glass door.
Love it or hate it, you should be ready for your close-up. The camera-equipped screens are likely to be popping up in more stores soon, because Walgreens rival CVS is starting its own tests, along with Kroger and Chevron.