No, your eyes are not tricking you—it’s just your neighborhood Walgreens using enhanced lights and images to help you to choose products from inside its glass door-enclosed display cases. As the following Fast Company article reports, the pharmacy is testing a camera and sensor system to track and suggest items for shoppers to select based upon demographics such as age and gender.
I walk into a Walgreens just off Union Square in New York City that seems, on the surface, to be just like any other pharmacy. But as I make my way to the back of the store, where there are refrigerators and freezers that store cold drinks, ice cream, and other frozen food, the walls start to glow.
That’s because the doors of most of these coolers are no longer the see-through glass you’d expect: Instead, they’re covered with screens that display what’s behind them using cheery, digital images and flashing promotions.
A startup named Cooler Screens is piloting a new door for commercial freezers and refrigerators that’s equipped with a camera, motion sensors, and eye tracking in six Walgreens pharmacies around the country, including the one off of Union Square. The doors can discern your gender, your general age range, what products you’re looking at, how long you’re standing there, and even what your emotional response is to a particular product.
For instance, if a man is standing in front of a cooler where Coke is displaying ads, the cooler might show a Coke Zero ad since that particular product skews more male, while a woman might see a Diet Coke ad, according to Jamie Koval, the company’s chief design officer.
We can understand that consumers may be taken aback by enhanced sensory images that appear when you are buying a quart of milk. Will shoppers love or hate being monitored by the watchful eye of this new system? Initial reports indicate increased product sales. Some consumers might even appreciate a computer recommending what could be their favorite new age beverage, based upon how they look, as well as the amount of time spent in the refrigerated aisle. We’re interested in seeing more results of this testing. Now, may we suggest you try the pomegranate flavored vitamin water on the second shelf to the left?
Overview by Raymond Pucci, Director, Merchant Service at Mercator Advisory Group