Stores have been using tracking technology for a long time. They use counters for inventory purposes and for ascertaining traffic numbers. These data can be used to determine trends in buying habits, to find out which of their stores get the most traffic, which products are popular, which are not, etc.
Store cards have taken it a step further in making these tracking data personalized. Under the guise of offering discounts, stores will use their own membership cards to track your buying habits. This allows them to direct advertisements to you based on what you’ve bought in the past. Because your buying history is tied to your personal information, you might get coupons and ads in the mail for things that you regularly buy.
An invasion of privacy or not, it is a cost-effective marketing method that works to increase their sales. As long as stores convince their customers that it’s all about getting that measly discount, people will continue to be willingly added to their customer database to facilitate the company’s marketing.
This private sector tracking trend continues to fashion outlets in department stores where mannequins are used to do more than just advertise clothing. An Italian mannequin manufacturer called Almax has designed a mannequin equipped with surveillance cameras behind the life size dolls’ eyes. These sneaky marketing schemes are already being used by retailers in the U.S. as well as three European countries. Daily Mail reports:
“From the outside, the $3,200 EyeSee dummy looks like any other mannequin, but behind its blank gaze it hides a camera feeding images into facial recognition software that logs the age, gender and race of shoppers. This information is fed into a computer and is ‘aggregated’ to offer retailers using the system statistical and contextual information they can use to develop their marketing strategies. Its makers boast: From now on you can know how many people enter the store, record what time there is a greater influx of customers (and which type) and see if some areas risk to be overcrowded.”
To tie it altogether, there’s a marketing technology company based out of Nashville called Red Pepper that has developed an application called Facedeals, whose logo resembles that of Facebook’s (but there’s no relation). The NY Daily News points out that these Facedeals cameras will use facial recognition software to personalize their advertisements directed to you:
“If you opt into this service, Facedeals cameras will recognize your face when you pass by a store. The service will simultaneously check you into that location on Facebook and offer you customized deals based upon your Facebook history, including products you ‘like.’”
People have compared these marketing technologies to the Tom Cruise flick Minority Report where holographic and face-recognizing advertisements speak to people by name to advertise products based on the individual’s buying history.
How long before this joke becomes a reality: