Reading Your Shoppers´ Minds (Literally)

Every retailer and marketer dreams of being able to read its shoppers´ minds.

How effectively could you communicate with them if you just knew what they were thinking? Displays automatically adapting its message and key visuals to the specific shopper, price tags showing the exact price the shopper is ready to pay, aisles arranging themselves in seconds to contain precisely those products that the shopper desires.

But what if this is not just a futuristic utopia but might soon become reality?

In this article shoppernewsblog presents five recent developments from neurological science to state-of-the-art technological applications bringing us a step closer to this ideal world for retailers and marketers.


1.     Reconstructing visual experiences (The Gallant Lab – UC Berkeley)

In September 2011, UC Berkeley’s The Gallant Lab published a stunning video clip on their recent findings. On the left side of the clip you see the original video that was shown to subjects while the activity in their visual center was recorded in an MRI scanner. Based on the brains´ activity, a software program then constructed a second clip (right side).

The reconstructed video was then compared to a pool of clips from Google´s archive giving researchers a good idea of what the subjects initially was exposed to.


2.     Emotion recognition (3M|GTG)

3M|GTG’s Up Front And Personal Report predicts commercial applications for emotion recognition software during 2012. Possible uses include:

Contextual Advertising: Bus stops might advertise umbrellas as soon as it starts raining or promote car sharing to individuals already waiting for some time.

Personal Preference Profiles (PPPs): “Super-charged opt-in social network profiles that are more in-depth than Facebook profiles and could include details on the user’s body type, allergies, anniversaries, favorite food, color, etc.” Saved on a person’s mobile phone, PPPs could interact with advertising via Near-Filed Communications to display a highly customized message to each individual as for example a jeans advertisement replacing skinny supermodels with the very consumers who are approaching a digital signage display.


3.     Mobile EEG (Mynd – Neurofocus)

Neurofucos developed a mobile EEG scanner which can communicate via Bluetooth with any mobile device.

Data is available within seconds and the light weighted device promises a wider range of applications and more realistic study designs than clinical experiments do. The device also reduces cost and expertise necessary to conduct brain activity studies hence, allowing marketers for myriad EEG studies in real world environment.


4.     Age, gender, and ethnicity recognition (ReconAge – AppTech)

Florida-based AppTech Corp recently announced the launch of its ReconAge, a mobile age recognition app for Android phones. The application uses real-time face recognition biometric systems online to determine a person´s age, gender, and ethnicity. Available for free download, the software enables marketers to measure in real-time whether they “advertise the right products to the right demographics”.

According to AppTech, “we have identified several ad delivery mechanisms which include location-based disbursement of prizes and special offers for both the person being photographed and the one who takes the picture”.


5. Measure engagement of window shoppers (aiSense AM – AITech)

aiSense connects simple webcams positioned in a shop´s window to software which recognizes the gender of passersby through facial pattern recognition. The program then sends predefined messages to the shopper measuring in real-time the effectiveness.

The original messages then can be modified to engage passersby more efficiently.


As odd as it may seem, we are getting closer to marketing’s holy grail of the transparent shopper. 

Consult our post “The Unconscious Shopper” to understand how our unconscious mind influences most of our decision-making.


Click “5 technologies That Change Shopper Marketing” to access all posts from this series.

For more information on digital shopper marketing and e-commerce, please consult our introductory chapters.


Which mind-boggling technology did you scout? What do you think about these new innovations?

 Please share your opinion with us.