GetGo’s Rug Phatak Explains Decision to Pilot Cooler Screens

Cold vault doors replaced with new digital solution in 5 stores
GetGo Cooler Screens
Photograph courtesy of Cooler Screens

PITTSBURGH — GetGo will be the first convenience-store chain to install Cooler Screen’s smart-screen doors on its cold vaults, a fitting distinction for a brand that has always been proud of its digital retail innovation.

From its fuelperks+ loyalty program to its mobile ordering and payment programs, and its piloting of the touchless Grabango checkout system, the chain puts a strong emphasis on technology. So it’s no surprise that in place of typical cold-vault doors, the company is testing the smart-screen doors from Chicago-based manufacturer Cooler Screens.

  • GetGo, with 258 stores, is No. 30 on CSP's 2020 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by number of company-owned retail outlets.

“Innovation has always been at the forefront of our strategy at GetGo,” said Rug Phatak, chief of staff and senior director of marketing at Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, the parent company of GetGo. “We are thrilled to be the first convenience store to partner with Cooler Screens to enhance and modernize the in-store shopping experience for our guests while creating dynamic merchandising opportunities.”

About the screens

The digital screens display products, promotions, nutritional information, advertisements and more. The doors, which are also going into more than 2,500 Walgreens drug stores nationwide, help the customers easily see the packaged beverage assortment a store offers, Phatak said, and creates a vibrant and exciting experience for them.

What does GetGo get out of it? Data, Phatak said.

“We get a lot of information about how customers are behaving before they make the purchase,” he said. “Then on the back end, Cooler Screens is also pioneering cameras on the back of the door, which will allow us to monitor in-stock position.”

Optical sensors on the front of the door use internet-of-things technology to analyze data streams in real time to determine customer proximity and engagement, Cooler Screens said, but that data isn’t stored or saved.

Cooler Screens technology can boost retailers’ sales, said John Clavadetscher, president and chief commercial officer of Cooler Screens.

“What we’re seeing is [customers] are buying more of the products that are behind the cooler screens,” Clavadetscher said. The center store is also getting a sales lift in addition to packaged beverages when Cooler Screens are in place, he said.

“We’re seeing anywhere from 50% to 100% store growth against comparable area stores,” he said.

The doors also allow for vendor partnerships, giving advertisers the chance to flash their message across the cold vault in a variety of ways.

Investment options

While costs for the doors vary, Cooler Screens partners with a retailer to swap its doors to the digital screens, and then whatever advertising revenue is generated, Cooler Screens splits with the retailer at a predetermined percentage. That percentage depends on what the retailer is willing to invest. An option for smaller stores could be to have Cooler Screens make 100% of the capital investment, and then Cooler Screens’ revenue comes from the sales of ads on the screens, according to the company.

GetGo is piloting the Cooler Screens technology on nonalcohol cold vault doors in three Pittsburgh-area stores and one in Erie, Pa. It added a fifth in December at a store in Ravenna, Ohio, Phatak said.

GetGo’s had to upgrade its Wi-Fi and update some infrastructure at the stores, but overall, the changes were minimally disruptive to customers and employees, Phatak said. Typically, a GetGo has 10 to 12 doors, not including beer doors.

One unintended plus to Cooler Screens, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is fewer germs, Clavadetscher said. People are making their decision on a drink when the door (which is a digital but not touch screen) is shut, he said. That results in fewer germs from potential customers opening the cooler door and touching a product multiple times, along with electricity savings from not losing as much cold air.

Cooler Screens expects to expand to more retailers soon with a recent boost in funding.

The company in October closed a more than $80 million Series C funding round from Verizon Ventures, Microsoft’s venture fund M12, GreatPoint Ventures and several other investors to drive company growth and national expansion. Since its founding in 2018, the digital media platform has raised more than $100 million in capital, bringing the value of the company to more than half a billion dollars, it said.

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