For decades now, smartphones have become ubiquitous in shoppers’ hands. Retailers also have evolved to shopper demands with self-checkout and digital payment options. However, some aspects of brick-and-mortar locations remain relatively untouched by the digital revolution. As technology becomes more and more intertwined with retail, there’s one area, in particular, getting an IoT facelift: the cooler section.
With many companies competing to utilize this point of sale space, one that most recently came on our radar is Cooler Screens, the smart-screens-meet-digital-media-and-merchandising solution developed in 2018 by Argo Tea founder Arsen Avakian.
The idea for Cooler Screens was founded on the core idea Avakian had to upgrade the consumer experience at retail to the benefit of consumers, retailers, and brands. Consumer expectations in grocery aisles weren’t keeping pace with digital experiences. Retailers struggled to manage inventory. Additionally, brands lacked an opportunity to influence consumer decisions at point of sale (other than via static packaging). So, Avakian thought, why not make cooler doors smarter?
The result was a digital smart screen that brings the best of online shopping in-store. With its proprietary technology and strict consumer privacy promises, Cooler Screens is disrupting retail advertising and transforming the experience in-store.
The Importance of an Integrated Shopping Experience
Let’s break down the Cooler Screens point of sale consumer experience. You walk into your local grocery store needing to pick up dessert for a casual dinner you’re hosting. You walk to the freezer section, thinking of getting something both frozen and gluten-free. As you approach a cooler, you notice the door is playing a giant video clip of friends eating ice cream at a park. As you get closer, a sensor recognizes that a shopper is nearby. The screen then changes to show a traditional lineup of frozen desserts, looking exactly like you would see them through a transparent freezer door. But instead of seeing the items sitting on the shelf, you see digital images of the desserts. Many highlight with bright icons that label them as gluten free. Perfect.
As you close the ice cream cooler door, a small ad starts playing in the center of one of the screens. Over the display, it shows the current temperature outside (95 degrees!). Then, it resolves into an ad for Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. Above that says, “Thinking about a Hershey’s Sundae? Try This”, and you see chocolate syrup too. Not exactly what you planned when walking in, but ice cream sundaes now sound like a good option.
A few minutes later, you leave the store with the ice cream sundae ingredients. Afterwards, the store quickly restocks the Häagen-Dazs shelf, as they anticipated extra ice cream purchases during this ad campaign and adjusted their inventory accordingly. Marketing executives at Hershey’s, check their analytics dashboards and evaluate ROI on their ads, making creative adjustments as needed.
The Cooler Screens Platform Serves Consumers, Marketers, Retailers
In order for your experience to flow smoothly, four components of the Cooler Screens platform worked together in service of you, the brands you purchased, and the store you visited.
1. Advertising and merchandising software called Cooler Media allowed the retailer and brands the opportunity to design and implement ads. They were designed to catch your attention especially in the three-to-five seconds you’d spend making your purchasing decision.
2. Cooler Analytics processed your dwell time, tracking ad effectiveness. It also provides rich insights to the brands paying for ad spots on the screens. It also provides inventory updates to the retailer. All within a new model for digital retail: “identity-blind,” never gathering or using personally identifiable or linkable information.
3. Meanwhile, the brands used Cooler Marketplace to optimize ad delivery at the right time, to the right place, and to the right consumer. This includes campaign management, A/B testing and supply/demand optimization.
4. In the store, Cooler Edge used digital smart screens and sensor technology to provide what you needed to see as you got closer to the screen, as well as to sense product inventory and position.
Perhaps most impressively, all of this happened without collecting any personalized data about you.
Examples of Success Stories
Cooler Screens is currently in more than 700 drugstores, supermarkets, and convenience stores across the U.S. Currently, they are reaching more than 90 million views per month. The company raised more than $100 million in funding by the end of 2020, attracting investors such as Verizon, Microsoft, Silicon Valley Bank, and more.
And Cooler Screens is just getting started. Point of sale retail advertising possibilities extend far beyond coolers — imagine health and beauty products, dry goods, produce, pharmacy, and more surrounded by real-time advertising and deals. Imagine a world where the consumer doesn’t have to rely on a smartphone as the nearest IoT device while they browse brick and mortar stores. Advertising will never be the same. Plus, according to the 90 percent of consumers surveyed who prefer the digital shopping experience they received with Cooler Screens, everyone is set to benefit.