Readers may recall that Essential Retail visited Milan Expo last year to see Coop Italia's grocery store of the future concept, which showcased various innovative digital touchpoints, screens and interactive technologies aimed at enhancing the grocery customer's shopping experience. Now, it's opened for business – for real.

The new flagship store, located in Milan's university area of Bicocca, merges physical and digital aspects of retailing to create a modern version of the traditional open-air markets popular in the local area.

Features aimed at providing a fresh take on the in-store customer experience include interactive food display tables and smart shelves that use digital technology to display product information in new ways. The project incorporates a series of technical solutions originally developed by Accenture for Coop at Milan Expo 2015, based on designs by MIT professor and head of Carlo Ratti Association, Carlo Ratti.

Interactive tables

Coop Italia aims to redefine the grocery shopping experience

Products are exhibited in the supermarket on large interactive tables where a movement of the hand shows augmented information about the product on a monitor, including its origins, nutritional facts, the presence of allergens, waste disposal instructions, correlated products and promotions. This experience is facilitated by Microsoft Kinect sensors that use body detection to interpret the customer's gestures.

Real time data visualisation

During the shopping journey, consumers have access to a large real-time data visualisation screen displaying content such as Coop's brand values, top-selling products, special daily offerings and cooking suggestions, and social media information including posts on the retailer's Facebook account.

Working with Avanade, a joint venture company between Accenture and Microsoft, Accenture helped implement the IT infrastructure, and analyse and develop point-of-sale touchpoints. The tech is underpinned by a Microsoft Azure cloud-based platform which can be scaled to a large number of stores if Coop opts to roll out this concept across its wider portfolio.

Augmented reality is used in the Coop Italia store to enhance the shopping journey

Marco Pedroni, president of Coop Italia, commented: "Following the great success and positive feedback we received when we showcased the Supermarket of the Future concept at Expo Milano 2015, we got straight to work to make our vision a reality.

"Using their digital expertise, Accenture and Avanade have helped us redesign the grocery shopping experience through a digital journey that meets customer demand for information, engagement and functionality in a simple and intuitive way."

Read about Coop Italia's grocery store of the future, following Essential Retail's visit to Milan Expo in 2015