Can Video Analytics Rev Up Marketing?

The Project -- Test and evaluate a video analytics system for monitoring and analyzing customer responses to in-store digital advertising.

The Business Case -- In-store analytics have always been important retail tools. Aileen White, Harley-Davidson Canada's manager of retail environment and consulting services, says the increasingly sophisticated options "are helping retailers explore a new dimension where consumer marketing is no longer just an art, but also science."

When White heard about technology for analyzing how customers react to in-store advertising, it sounded like a logical next step for the company, which has a retail multimedia marketing program. White decided to try Intel's Audience Impression Metric (AIM) Suite to see if it could help H-D Canada to deliver customized digital ads to customers and improve how it measures the ROI of its marketing efforts.

The AIM Suite uses cameras attached to digital signs and anonymous face-detection algorithms to aggregate data on how many people look at a sign, how long they view it, and their gender and age. The video analytics software runs on the same computer as the company's content-management system, and the Web-based reporting software stores data in the cloud.

First Steps -- White decided to test the AIM Suite at a series of motorcycling trade shows last winter so she could learn how to use it effectively before putting it in stores. (Given the limited technology requirements, IT was not involved.) The results of the test will also help H-D Canada create a framework for measuring how well its in-store marketing efforts get customers' attention and affect sales.

Visitors to H-D Canada's trade-show booths were offered several interactive experiences, such as getting fitted for a new bike, entering prize drawings via a touch-screen kiosk, and viewing digital signs while the analytics software motored in the background. The number of consumers willing to view the digital media was higher than White expected, which she took as a sign customers would accept anonymous in-store analytics. "The majority of consumers have become more open to the idea of technologies that know more about them as long as they are provided with a better and more relevant experience," White says.

White will decide whether to approve an in-store trial of the AIM Suite after she analyzes the test results. "If we can influence consumer shopping behavior at every touch point," White says, "then we know that we are successful."

What to Watch Out For -- "A lot of labor was involved in developing the right messaging," says White. The Harley-Davidson customer base is highly segmented, including working-class bikers, wealthy enthusiasts and young girls who buy Harley logo gear as a fashion statement. "The difficulty is thinking through a multi-pronged approach that will attract one segment without alienating another," says H-D Canada spokesperson Alex Carroni. Determining the right locations for the digital signs is also important.

Although trade-show visitors were open to having the AIM Suite analyze them, privacy and security are big considerations. H-D Canada's legal department vetted the tools and related processes for privacy compliance. "Brand loyalty and trust are hard-earned," says White, "and we don't want to risk that."

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