Bionic Mannequins Watch and Profile Your Every Shopping Move

For some, shopping is a cathartic experience.  After a very long and stressful work week, a few hours of retail therapy is enough to wash the stress away.  But would you still feel good about your retail therapy if you discovered that store mannequins are watching your every move, not for security purposes but to learn more about you?

Bionic Mannequins

Almax, an Italian mannequin maker, is now selling EyeSee –  a line of mannequins equipped with a camera that has facial recognition technology and is able to distinguish a person’s race, age and gender.  The mannequins can be used for added security as it can better see what customers are doing inside a shop.  But the main use of these bionic mannequins is to help brands better understand what their customers want, especially with the expected drop in interest for luxury brands.

The EyeSee costs about $5,130, and some shops, who can’t be named due to confidentiality, claimed they were able to boost sales after using EyeSee.  Almax claimed that one store adjusted their window displays after finding out that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women.  A clothier introduced a children’s line after the dummy showed that kids made up more than half its mid-afternoon traffic, and another store found that a third of visitors using one of its doors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting them to place Chinese-speaking staff by that entrance.

Almax stated that they’re planning on putting ears on their EyeSee mannequins to better understand what consumers want, as well as interactive screens near the mannequins so they can push more ads and products to customers.

“Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” said Uché Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp. It “could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers.”

Privacy Issues

Shoppers know that retail outlets are equipped with surveillance cameras for security purposes, and these cams are visible to the shoppers and they’re often given the benefit of full disclosure of when the store is under surveillance.

The EyeSee, on the other hand, is discrete–you won’t even know you’re looking at one.  Legal issues could be raised if a shop uses this type of mannequin if shoppers aren’t aware that they are being profiled for the shop, unknowing that their choices are being recorded.

“If you go on Facebook, before you start the registration process, you can see exactly what information they are going to collect and what they’re going to do with it,” said Christopher Mesnooh, a partner at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse in Paris.. “If you’re walking into a store, where’s the choice?”

Almax Chief Executive Officer Max Catanese stated that they haven’t encountered any privacy issues in selling EyeSee since the bionic mannequins do not store any images.  A retailer only needs to have a license in having a closed circuit television license to use the EyeSee.