Kroger Adds Electric-Car Chargers And Collects Customer Data

Kroger (NYSE:KR) is adding more than 200 electric-car charging stations for customer use at 112 stores, mostly in California and Arizona, the chain announced on Monday (April 8). But it's not all about eco-friendliness, writes Justin Doom at Bloomberg. The grocery giant uses data from the charging stations to track the shopping habits of customers who drive electric vehicles (EVs). Kroger knows from the 74 charging stations it already has in place that EV drivers typically spend 30 minutes longer in stores than owners of conventional automobiles.

The chain may eventually use that data to promote specific products aimed at EV drivers, said Brian Koontz, director of strategic corporate development for Ecotality (NASDAQ:ECTY), which runs the network of charging stations. Drivers pay between $1 and $2 for an hour's charging at the stations. Kroger and Ecotality will each spend $1.5 million to add the new charging capacity in cities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix.

The roughly 200 Kroger-owned stores that will now have charging stations are located in the western U.S., where 75 percent of EVs are sold. That's still less than 10 percent of Kroger's 2,400 stores.

The idea of adding EV charging stations at grocery stores that already have gas pumps seems like a no-brainer. What's much more clever is pumping the customers for CRM data at the same time, which makes it possible to justify the project's cost much faster. Since EV drivers tend to be higher-income and appear to spend more time shopping in the store, they're exactly the customers Kroger most wants.