The Wall Street Journal reports that drug store chain Walgreens “is testing a technology that embeds cameras, sensors and digital screens in the cooler doors in its stores, a new network of ‘smart’ displays that marketers can use to target ads for specific types of shoppers.”

According to the story, “The refrigerator and freezer doors act as a digital merchandising platform that depicts the food and drinks inside in their best light, but also as an in-store billboard that can serve ads to consumers who approach, based on variables such as the approximate age the technology believes they are, their gender and the weather … This new technology could provide brick-and-mortar stores with a marketplace similar to online advertising. Ice cream brands could duke it out to get the most prominent placement when it is 97 degrees outside; an older man could see ads for different products than a younger woman.”

The Journal writes that “the system is provided by Chicago-based Cooler Screens Inc., the brainchild of Arsen Avakian, the startup’s co-founder and chief executive and the former CEO of Argo Tea Inc. The idea was born in part out of his frustration spending hours in store cooler aisles trying to figure out how to promote Argo’s bottled ice teas, he said.”

The test is taking place in one Chicago store, with plans to expand it to San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.

KC's View: This sort of sounds similar to some of the innovations that were referred to in the Kroger-Microsoft deal announced this week … which just means that there is a broader shift taking place toward making physical stores more relevant to their shoppers.

Technology that helps consumers connect with brands, and brands connect with sponsors, is a positive development, as long as it doesn’t become intrusive and abusive.

I can imagine, though, that a lot of these doors in a crowded store could create a level level of clutter … and could turn consumers off. Retailers have to be careful about that.