Snack maker Mondelēz readying ‘smart shelves’ to track and influence shopper behavior

By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 9:43 EDT
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A young woman paying for grocery purchase with a mobile phone via Shutterstock
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A snack maker plans to introduce “smart” grocery store shelves to target shoppers with customized ads intended to spur impulse purchases.

Mondelēz International Inc. will set up “smart shelves” display units near checkout counters with sensor technology to identify the age and sex of shoppers to help determine which guilty pleasures most appeal to them and a video display to deliver the targeted ads.

“When people walk by, it’s a missed opportunity,” said Mondelēz chief information officer Mark Dajani. “We must know how the consumer behaves in the store.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the smart shelves are the latest example of the “Internet of Things,” which outfits everyday objects with sensors to help businesses learn more about their customers and products.

This burgeoning field could generate $1.9 trillion by 2020, predicts Gartner Inc., and already puts sensors in cars, clothes and trash bins.

The smart shelves, which are currently in prototype with plans for a 2015 rollout, would use sensors based on Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows technology to study shoppers’ facial structure and other characteristics to determine their age and gender.

Then shoppers, if they linger long enough, might see a video advertisement targeted toward their perceived demographic.

Sensors would also track which products were picked up, and by which types of shoppers, and coupons might then be displayed to tempt shoppers.

The shelves would relay bulk data to Mondelēz for analysis, possibly using SAP AG’s Hana database, according to Dajani.

The company, whose products include Oreos, Triscits, Chiclets, Cadbury chocolates and Ritz Crackers, would then maintain vast anonymous profiles of consumer interactions with their products.

“Knowing that 500 people picked up the product helps determine if the smart shelf placement in-store is optimal to drive traffic,” Dajani said.

Dajani insisted the technology would not compromise consumer privacy, saying the shelves wouldn’t capture photos, video or other personal information.

Instead, he said, the sensors would create avatar-like models of faces to determine which demographic they fit into, and Dajani said the software would not be able to recognize individual faces at all.

[A young woman paying for grocery purchase with a mobile phone via Shutterstock]

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