The Kroger Co. has had quite the year, emerging as a bona fide retail tech leader and stepping into several high-profile partnerships to power it into the next era. The Cincinnati-based retailer teamed up with Microsoft to pilot a connected store experience, which could be marketed to others in the industry as it explores behind-the-scenes alternate revenue streams. Kroger also went full steam ahead with plans to create 20 Ocado e-commerce warehouses, or “sheds,” in the U.S. At press time, it had just broken ground on the first facility, in Monroe, Ohio. Kroger also continued to expand its fleet of Nuro autonomous vehicles in Houston; invested in a new product incubator; and partnered with Loop, a new online pantry and personal care item delivery service centered around reusable packaging. In terms of brick-and-mortar expansions, Kroger has set its sights on the Michigan market this year with a $97 million investment that will include building two stores and three fuel centers, with 11 remodels underway. It will also add Kroger Pickup to 20 stores.