Inside Whole Foods’ Store of the Future

Tackles sustainability with digital displays

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Just one week after launching its first national branding campaign, Whole Foods is promoting its sustainability cred in stores.

The upscale grocer—with the help of SapientNitro's Second Story—has loaded up its new flagship store in Alpharetta, Ga., with digital experiences that show shoppers where their food comes from. This won't look like an Apple store, though. "We wanted to bring in some cool digital elements, but we didn't want that to detract from the shopping experience," said Matt Courtoy, Whole Foods' social and digital media specialist.

The most eye-catching activation is in the store's café. A digital screen on a wall runs an Instagram feed showing produce still growing in the fields of six local farms that supply the store. Elsewhere in the store, a digital mirror encourages shoppers to strike three different poses, which trigger images of recommended health products like vitamins and protein shakes.

Finally, touchscreens are built into display crates in the specialty section where beer, cheese and wine are sold.

Whole Foods' tech-savvy spin on shopping is the latest effort by a grocer to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive market. Earlier this month, AmazonFresh launched in New York, and Walmart is starting to offer more organic products.

"Educating you on the people that are bringing you the food is a huge differentiator—[that's] not easily replicated by the big-box grocers or Amazon," said Donald Chesnut, SapientNitro's chief experience officer.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.