The perpetually connected consumer

Over the next 18 months we are again set to see some significant changes in marketing and how advertisers engage with the consumer. The impact and opportunities wearable technology’s such as Fitbit and Jaw bone present and conversely the potential risks associated with these types of tracking and data collection along with changes to laws around how this data can be used means we are set for a challenging time ahead.

Targeting the right offer, at the right time to the right people is fundamental to marketing. As we move our digital media consumption online it has become easier for marketers to track current and existing behaviour, to build a profile of the consumer and with the use of both data and research model with varying degrees of certainty what triggers and offers will improve the chances of success to that ultimate sale.

But when we move outside of the web browser – outside of our home even things become a little trickier.

For a while now Tesco’s with the help of Amscreen has looked to tackle this challenge in their petrol / convenience stores up and down the country by installing cameras that are focused on customers as they queue. These cameras use facial recognition software to profile people into gender, combining this data with time of day / weather to then server more targeted advertising through the digital displays that are positioned along aisle.

Similar technology is also being used in outdoor digital poster’s to again profile the crowd as they approach or wait in general proximity of the installation – changing the message accordingly.

Where Tesco’s solution differs though is the potential to link your face, directly to your purchase and club card information. Let’s be clear hear they are not doing this today, however technically it is entirely feasible to make this join and subsequently target you in even a more personalised fashion either in the same or other stores around the group.

People Tracking

Moving away now to a more ‘traditional’ method of tracking is iBeacon from Apple.

iBeacon has been around now for a while now, however is still relatively new to the market with a handful of retailers adopting.  Macy’s in NewYork and San Francisco have recently installed iBeacons in conjunction with Shopkick (their application runs on your phone, giving targeting offers depending on where you are in the store) with Apple turning on the tech across their US stores last year.

The technology is a transponder unit, these are placed around the store to then interact with mobile phones / devices using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking it’s movements to within 10cm. This level or accuracy which far exceeds existing technologies such a Wi-Fi and GPS is down to using triangulation to determine the devices location.

And it’s not only the targeting of offers which makes this technology appealing to retailers. If you go into a super market not all the cameras are there for security purposes – a number are there to track shopper behaviour, where you pause and the route you take.

Tracking customers journey through the store as they browse and shop is critical in ensuring store layouts are maximised to increase basket value (how much you and I spend) – this technology complement those more traditional observational techniques.

Holy Grail

We see the continued quest for more accurate and ongoing tracking of users manifest itself in the latest iteration of Apple products, originally with the introduction of the M7 chip in the 5s phone and now with the iWatch.

The introduction of the chip is important as it’s role is specifically designed as a specialist in tracking, incorporating compass, gyroscope, accelerometer along with having low power consumption to allow for use when the phone is ‘sleeping’ this signals Apples acknowledgment location based services and the devices that power them is of significant strategic importance.

The chip knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving and could change the context of the applications. For example, maps changes from driving mode with turn by turn navigation to walking mode with more granular views and information. And remember, the phone is also aware of weather, time travelled (destination) and other factors that could be used for targeting purposes way beyond the simple ‘voucher’ offer as you walk past a store.

As these devices become miniaturised and integrated they will take over the current space occupied by specialist devices such as FitBit and JawBone. Last year Forrester estimated smart glasses, fitness bands and watches, should sell about 10 million units, generating €2 billion.


Key for adoption is both affordability and also social acceptance, Google glass proving this, however I’m sure as the technology becomes less obtrusive and integrated adoption will only increase exponentially like the adoption of the mobile phone.

Not only are the numbers significant, but also the change from consumers being the ‘data subject’ to the ‘data creator’ , revealing granular information about our behaviour and habits. This machine to machine collection differs hugely from the days of form filling and opt in check boxes – consumers had at least ‘some’ visibility of data being collected and it’s subsequent reuse.

With the challenges we see today from what I would class as ‘old data’, as we move to less transparent, higher frequency and granularity these issues are only set to increase.


Cynthia Close said...

Your comments about Tesero being able to connect my face with my purchases is fairly disturbing. What if I’m a young woman buying condoms, or a Cleric buying a six pack. There are lots of purchases that I’d just as soon make in private thank you. I hope they don’t decide to use this option. I don’t like the idea at all.

Bob Mansell said...

I’m quite sure my local supermarket is tracking my purchases. Of course no one says anything, but for the past year or so they’ve started sending me coupon packets which are specific to the products I buy. I get great coupons, but not sure if I like this invasion of my privacy. I thought about taking my business elsewhere and telling them why, but it sounds like anywhere I go will do the same thing. It makes me homesick for the Mom and Pop store back in my old neighborhood.

Kaylene said...

Wow, this article is an eye opener. I had no idea stores were so hi tech about getting me to buy stuff. Tracking my movements through the store and noting where I stop? Watching my facial expression? I remember being surprised when I learned that grocery stores intentionally placed milk at the back of the store to make me walk past all the other products, but this level of coercion is insane!

Geanie Marie said...

I think it’s interesting that you say the consumer will change from being the data subject to the data creator. I already feel like I’ve done that. To program my phone the way I want it, I‘ve had to divulge my name and address. My fit bit is filled with personal information, not to mention the online profile I just filled out for a job. I think there’s a crazy amount of personal info out there that we don’t even know about as well. I suppose I could always join the witness protection program.