Walgreens tests tech that sort of recognizes you in-store
Walgreens is piloting a line of “smart coolers” with the ability to display targeted ads to in-store shoppers.
Instead of seeing through the glass to drinks, ice cream and other items, shoppers view digitized representations of available products inside, or basically a planogram on the front of refrigerator and freezer doors.
The system involves using sensors that detect shoppers and cameras that scan their faces to estimate their gender and approximate age for delivering targeted messages. Weather, time of day and other events may also influence messaging.
Beyond messaging, iris-tracking technology can show which items are picked up or are looked at, providing insights into the effectiveness on-screen promotions and the overall display.
The digital screens on the coolers further give retailers the ability to make real-time changes to pricing and promotions. Alerts to out of stocks is touted as another benefit.
According to The Wall Street Journal, about 15 brands, including Nestle and MillerCoors, are also testing the technology from the start-up, Cooler Screens. Microsoft was involved in Cooler Screens’ latest funding round and provides software that powers the technology.
Facial recognition software in retail is becoming more common in Asia to support mobile payments. But some see facial scanning as an invasion of privacy that doesn’t ask for consent from the consumer.
Last year, a firestorm erupted after two Canadian malls were discovered using cameras to track shoppers. Similar to Walgreens, the technology only made inferences on ages and gender. The mall operator felt it didn’t have to notify customers or obtain their consent because no photos or videos were recorded. The pilot ended after a major backlash.
Walgreens is posting privacy statements near the coolers and a concierge will be available in test stores to explain the technology.
According to The Atlantic, Cooler Screens claims its technology isn’t facial recognition because it doesn’t identify individuals and only scans faces to gain inferences of their make-up. Only anonymous metadata is captured and stored.
“The business model is not built on selling consumer data,” Cooler Screens CEO Arsen Avakian told the Journal. “The business model is built on providing intelligence to brands and to the retailers to craft a much better shopping experience.”
- Cooler Screens
- Walgreens Tests Digital Cooler Doors With Cameras to Target You With Ads – The Wall Street Journal
- Now Your Groceries See You, Too – The Atlantic
- Walgreens’ new smart fridges are watching you, and they are learning – Circa
- Thousands Of Stores Will Soon Use Facial Recognition, And They Won’t Need Your Consent – Buzzfeed News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you expect customers in Walgreens to respond to the Cooler Screens technology? Does Walgreens have an obligation to explain how the technology works to shoppers in its stores?