FEATURED | Empowering the Eyeballs to Track and Feed the Retail Surveillance System
IndraStra Global

FEATURED | Empowering the Eyeballs to Track and Feed the Retail Surveillance System

By Rahul Guhathakurta

Research and analysis are two primary mantra of any consumer research framework pertaining to retail sales optimization. At any given store format, planogram and promotional display models plays a very critical role in terms of maximization of sales, but verifying that the product on shelves match planograms are laborious, time consuming and very expensive process.

FEATURED | Empowering the Eyeballs to Track and Feed the Retail Surveillance System

Sometime back, retailers from North America and Europe started installing the store shelf cameras in order to garner yet more personal purchasing information. [1] The cameras, built into high-tech shelves, allegedly only be used to track demographics associated with buying habits. The concept of eyeball tracking is one of the most cutting-edge and innovative ways to deliver critical consumer grazing-cum-buying data to a category manager or a brand manager, so that he or she can better understand how customers interact with retail locations and the products on the shelf.

Surveillance cameras in urban areas and inside major retailers most generally run their footage on a loop, recording over the prior day when no incident warranting additional review occurs. The store shelf cameras are designed not to enhance safety and stop theft inside a store; their sole purpose is to zoom in and discover who is buying what, how much they are buying and how often they as filling their grocery carts.

According to a former Consumer Insight Manager at Mondelez International [3], their pilot projects including Neuro-science (brain wave mapping) and Eye Tracking had been very encouraging. Neuro-science helped them to assess the true response (that of subconscious mind) to marketing stimuli (packs, advertisements) and Eye tracking helped them to understand the parts of pack and advertisements that matter most to the consumers.

Image Attribute: Example of Consumer's Eye-view through a Wearable Device

Image Attribute: Example of Consumer's Eye-view through a Wearable Device 

Mondelez wanted to know the buying habits of customers from all locations, and situated their snack food displays accordingly. The cookie, crackers, and chips manufacturer is perhaps the first company to discuss its retail surveillance camera plans publicly, but is not likely the only company planning on utilizing the new technology to their benefit.

The Role of Wearable Devices in "Eyeball Empowerment":

The next iteration of Google Glass is already in the works, but not much information has surfaced thus far about what the device’s hardware will be like. Google has given much of its focus and attention to the Glass at Work program over the last couple of years, and it’s no secret that specific work applications have been where the device has found its best use cases, but what will that mean for the direction that Google takes with the device’s hardware in the future?

The “gaze” tracking technique would be implemented with a head-mounted device – such as Google Glass – which then communicates to a server, allowing Google to create “pay-per-gaze” that would register whether an individual has looked at an ad before charging the brand, similar to “cost-per-click”.
Image Attribute: Schematic of Google's Next Iteration of Glass with Eye Tracking Technology

Image Attribute: Schematic of Google's Next Iteration of Glass with Eye Tracking Technology

The patent application, which was filed in 2011 but was only granted to the company in mid of 2013. This published patent might give us an idea, and it might involve a new way to get information from the wearable display device based on where you’re looking, and that's the exact tool, brands are going to use at epic scale to empower the eyeballs to track and feed their system on real-time basis.

So, how brands are going to "Empower the Eyeballs"?

1. Brands are eventually going to seek a well defined strategic tie-up with wearable device firms having readily available consumer databases, As per our understanding and findings - Google clearly has first mover's advantage in this arena.

2. Brands are either going to integrate Google APIs into their marketing analytics linked with Google Glass applications or they can either deploy their own APIs through a dedicated server cluster. The eyeball reach and data gathering capabilities will vary in both the scenarios. 

3. The amount charged by the Google or any wearable tech firms could depend on whether the user looks directly at an promotional display on shelf or on-online ad, how long they look at it and whether a given emotional state is sparked as a result based upon pupil dilation. Google could also charge brands for accumulated analytics garnered from multiple users of the platform, for a certain “premium fee”.

4. Brands can also directly launch their own Google Glass applications do direct consumer on-boarding and can create virtual consumer village, which will eventually minimize the presence of middlemen driven market research firms. 

5. Miniaturization of wearable devices like Google Glass (with time) will play a very critical role in-terms of acceptability by the consumers to actively (or passively) participate in track and feed the Retail Surveillance System of a particular brand or a cluster of brands within a common category. 

Pros associated with "Eyeball Empowerment" :

Reduction of retail surveillance hardware cost, it will be no more tracking the eyeballs of consumer but eyeballs itself will become consumer insight gathering tool and with advancement in neuro-sciences (brain wave mapping) technique at granular level (through mobile based applications), an optimum "Consumer Singularity" can be achieved.

Cons associated with "Eyeball Empowerment":

No Google Glass
In plain words - "Valid privacy concerns will be sparked off". As governments are working towards deploying stringent regulations for individually owned drones, sooner or later privacy ball will kick into the wearable device tech ecosystem. In a bid to allay any unease, the Google's patent clearly mentions that individual’s privacy would be protected by the removal of personal identifying data – which would also be encrypted – so advertisers would only be provided anonymous analytics. In addition, the patent suggests it could offer users opt-in or opt-out privileges, to control the type of data being gathered and to whom it might be shared.[4]

Secondly, physical retailers need to chalk out their own privacy-cum-security framework for allowing buyers to use their wearable devices like Google Glass on the premises. 


There is no-doubt, brands are going to get epic level consumer data by indulging into "Eyeball Empowerment ", which will eventually feed a brand's consumer analytic team to derive better sales and promotion solutions. However, the one who holds the key demographic data (like Google) are going to monopolize-cum-monetize the whole concept and brands have to come in terms with such kind of service providers till they deploy their own knowledge, resources and applications in near future. The final outcome will be totally based upon the dependency on such critical data and cost involved in gathering it at the first place itself. 

About The Author:

Rahul Guhathakurta (K-4094-2015), Founder of IndraStra Global. He can be reached at his Linkedin Profile.


1. Grocery Store Shelf Cameras Could Watch You Shop, OffTheGridNews

2. Benefits of Network Video for Retail: A new perspective on Retail Surveillance

3. Mobilizing Actionable Insight - Interview with Jit Papneja , MRMW.net

4. Google patents ‘pay-per-gaze’ eye-tracking ad technology, Marketingweek.com

AIDN: 001-11-2015-0476