Having a trusted pharmacy and drugstore nearby like Walgreens is vital for access to products like over-the-counter medicines, cosmetics, vitamins, and even everyday necessities—not to mention prescription medications.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, they took on an even more critical role by providing access to vaccines and reliable testing for the virus. But now, Walgreens has made a change to its stores that has left some shoppers outraged.
Walgreens customers are angry about new screens added to the store’s fridge and freezer doors.
The glass doors in the refrigerated section have been replaced by digital screens. The new setup means that, instead of customers looking through the glass to see the products that are available, they’re able to view them digitally before opening the refrigerator door.
Walgreens began testing the digital cooler doors in November 2018. The technology comes from Cooler Screens, a company financed and powered by Microsoft, and it’s more than a monitor that displays photos of food and drink options.
The digital coolers are also embedded with cameras and sensors, both inside and outside, that display targeted ads for every customer that stands in proximity to the cooler, based on factors like age and gender.
These new cooler doors give Walgreens a way to increase its revenue by providing ad space to brands that want more customers to try their products.
Unfortunately, these changes made thousands of Walgreens customers outraged who didn’t realize there was a problem with the original cooler doors in the first place.
While many argue that the focused ads can help retail stores bring in more money from big brands, many customers are still confused by the change. Some shoppers attempt to use the displays as touch screens, while others assume they’re voice-activated. And there are still reports that the screens can inaccurately display what’s inside when items go out of stock.
One expert argues that the change may be jarring for people who aren’t looking to be bombarded with product placement. “People really appreciate their routines. They’re not always seeking excitement,” said Julio Sevilla, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing at the University of Georgia who studies consumer behavior.
Others complain that it needlessly complicates a quick trip to the store. “We see advertisements literally everywhere, and now I have to go see it on the cooler?” Henry Brewer, a Walgreens customer in Chicago who has seen the technology. He added that the screens felt “very in-your-face” and “intrusive” while shopping. “It doesn’t just seem necessary, and I think it’s a turnoff to the consumer when this wasn’t a problem.”
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