Observational Research Determines How Consumers Shop

Jun 25, 2002

Retailers who wanted to know what people thought about store displays or shopping experiences would stop them on their way out or invite them to focus groups. Now technology allows retailers to conduct “observational” research of consumers. Many projects are being done quietly, because retailers fear a backlash from privacy-minded customers.

“Gaze-tracking” systems monitor how long a person stared at a particular part of a shelf, so displays that don’t seem to inspire shoppers can be quickly rearranged. Electronic sensors count the number of shoppers in particular areas, helping stores deploy staff better.

Among the most-popular systems are those that act as substitutes for store greeters who click counters behind their backs as they say “Hello” to customers. ShopperTrak RCT, a high-tech analysis company, has set up such devices in more than 10,000 locations, including Eddie Bauer, Ikea, Sears and Disney stores.

The technology with the greatest implications for retailing research may be the e-tag chips attached to merchandise at Prada. Gap, Toys R Us, Bloomingdale’s, and Hollywood Video. The size of a postage stamp, e-tag chips are capable of storing and sending wireless signals with information such as the product name, when it was manufactured, its location, directions for use and expiration date.

Moderator Comment: Do retailers have systems in place
to analyze and take advantage of information gleaned from e-tags and other shopper
observation technology? [George
Anderson – Moderator

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