Facial recognition, computer vision and artificial intelligence may sound like creepy technology buzzwords, but they are quickly becoming a part of everyday brick-and-mortar shopping.
Marketers hope these technologies can reveal what you are thinking in the crucial period between entering the store and making a purchase — that means recording everything you do and analyzing that data.
Companies like Amazon already have granular data on what consumers look at, click on, and add to their carts before making a final purchase online — but when it comes to store purchases, like food, companies know less about us. That’s why companies from Apple to Google have been helping retailers fill in the gaps, using shoppers’ smartphone data.
“One of the things that marketers have been trying to do is get beyond the data of our keystrokes,” said Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research. “Whether its cookies tracking you through a retail website or what we’re talking to a friend about on Facebook.”
Concerns about tracking shoppers in-store intensified this month when Amazon debuted a new automated concept store, Amazon Go. A patent filed in 2014 by the company showed how an automated checkout store could work: Cameras and other technologies would follow individual shoppers — and could identify them by their skin tone— and analyze their behavior throughout the store. It’s unclear if this is the system behind Amazon Go. The company declined to comment for this story.
It comes after retailers’ apps have spent years trying to track users with a different technology: geolocation “beacons” that ping your smartphone as you visit stores. Beacons are tiny gadgets, positioned throughout the store, that can communicate with your smartphone to match your identity to your location.