Retail turns to customer faces for real-time marketing opportunities


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This week it emerged that retail giant Tesco is to implement screens in its forecourt petrol stations which can tell a customers’ age and gender in order target advertising more effectively.

Tesco will introduce the OptimEyes screen, developed by Lord Alan Sugar’s Amscreen, to all 450 of its UK-based petrol stations in a 5 year deal. The screen which will be positioned at the till scans the faces of customers to determine age and gender and then runs tailored advertisements.

The usual privacy backlash has started and Tesco stress that no images or details are actually stored. Of course they aren’t, this is being processed in real-time and to be honest there’s no real need or reason to cache this information as it’s transient. But this kind of technology is becoming the norm, not the exception. Take a look at iBeacon from Apple which they hope to become the standard Bluetooth protocol for in-store tracking of customers through iOS7 for example.

IBeacon is software that enhances the location-tracking services in an iPhone, an iPad Mini, or any device running iOS 7. For retailers desperate to turn smartphones from distractions into a sales tool, it provides a quick way to target ads and other messages to consumers as they walk through a store.

Camera technology is already available that matches scans of people’s faces when they walk into a shop with their pictures on Facebook to tailor special offers to their “likes”. The depth of analytics is increasing according to the amount of information we as consumers are willing to share arbitrarily.

We often complain about receiving junk mail in the post that is clearly part of a batch run, or that mail-merged email shot that fails and we’re reading a message which starts “Dear , ” but the reality is that the world around us has changed significantly and rapidly and real-time opportunities to present us with offers that are relevant and situational is now the new gold rush for retailers. The Customer Experience Management solution built by Software AG is but one example that companies such as Turkcell has reaped massive revenue benefits from and now banking, credit card and financial providers are clamouring for more of the same.

So is reading a customer’s expression, age or gender really necessary when we know so much about them already ?

Well, yes. In Tesco’s case the technology also adjusts adverts depending on the time and date, as well as monitoring customer purchases. The screens are predicted to reach a weekly audience of more than five million people, mostly adults. That’s a huge number. But we can go further than this.


At a recent conference we demonstrated that we could read facial expression and use that sentiment analysis along with other internal and external factors such as current weather, Twitter, financial news to adjust the prices of goods in real-time. It represents both a massive cultural and technological shift in retail and the consumer experience.

Peter Cattell, category director for Tesco petrol stations, said “The ability to tailor content based on time and location means it can be extremely useful and timely for our customers.”

They keyword from that statement is timely.

It’s the combination of real-time analytics with right-time opportunity that will separate the winners from the losers in the war for the consumer wallet.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Theo Priestley
Theo Priestley is Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Software AG, responsible for enabling the marketing and voice of the industry's leading Business Process, Big Data/ In-Memory/ Complex Event Processing, Integration and Transaction suite of platforms. Theo writes for several technology and business related sites including his own successful blog IT Redux. When he isn't evangelizing he's playing videogames, collecting comics and takes the odd photo now and then. Theo was previously an independent industry analyst and successful enterprise transformation consultant.


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