According to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, snack company Mondelez International will introduce so-called “smart shelves” into grocery stores starting in 2015. The shelves, which will be concentrated at the checkout line, will use a variety of tools to identify a shopper’s sex and age. The machine will then use that info to choose an ad custom tailored for the shopper’s demographic.
The shelves should also be able to track individual engagement, and monitor how long each ad is watched. Weight sensors under the product holders will let the machine know when a customer has picked up an item, or is considering a purchase. Custom coupons can be displayed, in order to boost conversion rates.
It’s not quite the future advertising scenario we envisioned, but it certainly lays the groundwork for highly personalized, targeted video ads. If this tech is combined with wearable devices using, say, Bluetooth LE, the program wouldn’t even have to guess a shopper’s demographic. In fact, it would likely know their name and exactly what kind of candy they enjoy.
Some of the tech behind the shelves includes Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows gesture recognition. The data crunching will be done by Mondelez’s engineers, perhaps using SAP AG’s Hana software. Mondelez says that the shelves will only use aggregate data, and will not store any photos or videos of customers (for use in a potential facial recognition database). Ideally the shelves will not only help sell snacks at the checkout line, but also help Mondelez optimize their product placement and customer understanding throughout the store.
For businesses, Mondelez may set a new precedent for customer tracking and tailored advertisements. If their smart shelves prove a successful experiment, its likely that other companies will push to expand the technology past the checkout counter, and further into stores. Depending on customer response, such technology could become a standard part of the shopping experience.
Mondelez is the maker of popular candy and snack lines such as Oreos, Trident gum, Triscuits, Chips Ahoy!, and Cadbury eggs.