The Future Of Shopping: Shelves That Track The Age And Gender Of Passing Customers

Global snack food giant Mondelez is testing "smart" shelves that use Microsoft Kinect technology.

The ultimate in creepy-yet-inevitable marketing tech has arrived: supermarket shelves that track the age and gender of passing customers.

Supermarket giant Mondelez International, whose portfolio includes iconic brands like Chips Ahoy, Ritz, and Nabisco, is now testing shelves with integrated Microsoft Kinect sensors that determine the age and gender of passing shoppers. Mondelez says they won't record individual data on passing supermarket shoppers, but will use the aggregate information to help tailor marketing campaigns.

Mark Dajani, Mondelez's chief information officer, told the Wall Street Journal's Clint Boulton the experimental shelves were part of a larger push by the global snack manufacturer to integrate sensor tech of the sort found in your smartphone into product research and marketing. Dajani said that other new technologies, such as embedded weight sensors that detect when customers pick up products, could help create precision marketing tools for the supermarket aisle to make sure consumers put chocolate chip cookies in their carts.

Microsoft has been aggressively touting the use of Kinect for retailers. While best known as a gaming tool, Kinect's sensor set allows retailers to inexpensively offer science fiction-like shopping experiences.

[Image: Flickr user dno1967b]

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  • dfjdejulio

    So, given how Kinect works, does this mean we can go into a store waving around an invisible-to-humans IR emitter and, potentially, crash store systems?

  • Christina Shumanov

    I expect it is product specific (not based on aisles) so you have to interact with the product then it collects the data. That way you can micro market to groups, for instance they would probably know that many of their customers are mums in there 30s (for snacks) but is there another strong group of consumers in their 20's who only purchase late on Saturday nights? (what a great campaign you could run for that!) When it is product based the supermarkets can also make revenue from selling those insights.

  • Dan

    I'm not exactly sure how they'll use the information. OK, so a woman in her 30s walks down aisle 9...does something happen right then? Like, a light starts blinking near the Heinz ketchup and a coupon spits out? Or do they just count the number of women in their 30s who walk down aisle 9? Both seem really basic stuff. They really need to tie it to THAT shopper...does she like ketchup? Does she buy a competitor's product? Has it been X weeks since she last bought it? You need to tie it to THAT shopper otherwise you are just shooting in the dark -- imaging her walking down the diaper aisle and diaper coupons start spitting out...she's childless and just wants to get to the milk at the back of the store, but she fits the age/gender of the typical diaper buyer.