Once every few years, a new sic-fi technology gets to the point where it can become massively adopted and change the technological landscape forever. Microsoft released the Kinect barely one year ago, but setting a new standard for interaction in the gaming industry and breaking the Guiness Record for becoming the fastest selling gadget ever was just the tip of the iceberg for this revolutionary device.
Microsoft left the USB connection to the device opened by design, and the development community rejoiced. Several Kinect hacks appeared during this year and some development communities are starting to gain momentum: Open Kinect, OpenNI (supported by Prime Sense, who holds the patent on the Kinect’s chip) and even Microsoft itself is funding an accelerator program for startups that use Kinect for other commercial uses.
Far away from Silicon Valley, in a garage in Argentina, three techies saw the upcoming wave and dared to dream. Why not using the Kinect for analyzing people and giving brick and mortar stores something like Google Analytics? A new concept was born, gathering automatic data on the behavior of real flesh and blood visitors. This concept was named Shopperception.
Shopperception allows to gather information that was impossible to know up to now. Visits, average times, locations, grabbing products from the shelf (conversions), putting them back (returns), hot and cold shelf zones, just to name a few. Shopperception is the first objective way a real life store can perform an A/B test to understand the impact of a change in a shelf before deploying it into hundreds of shops.
Shopperception is to the Retail Industry what Google Analytics was to the web.
But, why are analytics and A/B tests so important? The web is what it is thanks to the analytics and A/B tests, that’s why. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you never asked yourself what happened with those bouncy icon infested sites where you could never find what you where searching for, or do what you wanted to do. The web today is more natural. Buying a book in Amazon is a simple experience, and so it is looking at your friend’s birthday pictures in Facebook. But, how did they do it? Great websites are not oracles of user behavior, they gather data about their users all the time, and use that data to improve what they offer. The result? More users, more sales and a better usage experience for you and me.
But, should we start worrying about our privacy? No. Shopperception is anonymous, as all website statistics are today. Agile Route takes your privacy very seriously. Shopperception does not allow the shop owner to know what *you* bought, but it does allow him to know how many people grabbed the chips, put them back and then reached for the oats. It allows him to serve you better, perhaps by displaying the healthy food closer to you and provide you with more variety so you get to choose among better options in the first place.
Listen to this interview the Wall Street Journal made to Holly Finn about Agile Route’s Shopperception, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
The overwhelming answer from the media and the press on Shopperception worldwide, shows that this first effort in joining the offline and the online worlds is but the first tiny stone in a huge avalanche that is coming.
The only question that still remains to be answered is: can three people and a $200 device change a trillion dollar industry forever? I guess we’ll find soon enough.