2015: Big brother is watching you

Through what kind of channel did you obtain your last purchase? Was it online or offline? It would be interesting to see what the percentages of online vs. offline purchases are. Some of us may favor online shopping because of the great amount of information available about your intended purchase. Others prefer going to a physical store for the service provided by a salesman.

Either way, it is obvious that some retailers have lost customers who switched to online shopping. So what can they do to increase profitability despite this loss? Surveillance cameras might be a step in the right direction.

Now when thinking of surveillance cameras, you most probably expect to read about crime. However, they have another valuable utility. Software enables to track people with the use of multiple surveillance cameras. Here is how it works. The cameras track a person, as he/she is moving around the store. The software breaks down the footage it obtains into components. These components consist of people’s characteristics such as hair color, height, color of their clothes etc. The information produced by the software provides retailers insights on where customers spend most time in the store and which products they are looking at. The software analytics are able to predict the probability of a person moving from one place in a store to another.

Software picks out people’s characteristics from surveillance video so it can track them across a store, from one camera to another. (MIT technology Review, 2015)

Software picks out people’s characteristics from one camera to another. (MIT technology Review, 2015)

The aforementioned results can be a valuable contribution to adjusting the real time in store experience of the customer. Retailers can improve the layout of the store, adapt their product offer, change the way employees provide service to customers and much more. By enhancing customer experience and better adapting to their needs, retailers are able to increase profitability.

As with most topics related to gathering customer data (online), privacy matters are addressed. We are already less in control online. Will this software be another infringement of our privacy? Maybe we simply have to accept the fact that the idea of privacy is transforming. The same way that many other things are, as technology is changing the world we live in.

Do you already feel ‘they’ are watching you? Or will you be more aware of the surveillance cameras now? Is this an acceptable marketing tool or do retailers know too much about you? Personally, I was not aware of this phenomenon, the trade off between privacy and convenience. Perhaps further transparency about this technology and the benefits and drawbacks might help acceptance, what do you think?






3 responses to “2015: Big brother is watching you”

  1. 374642bd says :

    They use so called ‘Heat maps’ to see where the busy areas are. On this site are some examples: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-retailers-track-shoppers-in-heat-maps-2014-1?IR=T

  2. 347015ia says :

    I just read this article and I thought: reallyyy? I know in the Netherlands they have to announce that you are being filmed.

    In the following dutch article, they are talking about the fact that the privacy of burglar was violated, by uploading the clip of him being in the residence of someone else on the internet.

    And since it are camera’s I don’t believe you can anonymized this visual type of information easily. If a company plans to do this, they should have a disclaimer some before the shop and have a clear privacy policy.

  3. gabriellapimpao says :

    This methodology might be very old only the technology and with that the scale might have changed. Why am I saying this? I used to do a student “on-demand” job (I am not sure you can call it a job as it only lasted 1-2 days a year but anyway) at IKEA in Hungary where I used to get a map of the store and I needed to follow customers and draw the way they walked in the shop, where they stop, what they touched etc. After a few hours your strategy of following became so good that people almost never realized you were following them. So old method, new technology and I wouldn’t be surprised if soon we would find out that some shops have pressure sensors in the pavement to do the same that cameras do from another perspective.

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