A Few More Turow Data Points

Using Infrared Sensors to Measure Aisle Eyeballs

Some of the biggest names in retail and consumer goods—including Wal-Mart, Kroger, Walgreens, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Disney, Kellogg’s and Miller Brewing—have gotten together to make a sort of Nielsen Ratings for retail aisles.

The concept, which has been the subject of a major trial with 10 stores, is not especially cutting-edge. Using no more than a dozen sets of wireless bidirectional infrared sensors, each store would count the number of people who entered and exited each shopping aisle, according to Peter Hoyt, executive director of In-Store Marketing Institute, which was involved in the trial.

[…] There are many other retail tech tactics to get at this kind of information, projects ranging from smart carts that report back their location, the elaborate use of video cameras to constantly track customers and smart shelves paired with item-level RFID. But the infrared sensor approach isn’t merely less expensive and easier to deploy than those alternatives. It’s also a lot less threatening.

“The general public will perceive [other techniques] as being invasive. This technology is attractive because it’s so benign,” Hoyt said. “If you tell people you’re tracking them with video or with RFID, they freak out.”

The main objective of all of this, however, has little to do with IT and everything to do with marketing.