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Will sensor technology revolutionise marketing?

3 min read

Back to Blog

3 min read

Will sensor technology revolutionise marketing?

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Technology on 30th October 2017 9:00 am

Will sensor technology revolutionise marketing?

Health tracking armbands. Networked home appliances. Mixed reality. It might not seem like wearable devices and the Internet of Things have much to offer marketers, but the boom in the number of internet-accessible devices, and the resulting explosion of data, has the power to transform the business landscape.


Precise locational data, whether gained from a wearable device or from a smartphone, contains a great deal of useful information. If you know that a customer is approaching your store – or is about to leave, for example – then it may be the perfect time to ping them with an offer. Conversely, if they are about to enter a competitor’s store then you may be able to steer them in another direction by sending them a discount code.

Equally, sensors can measure footfall around a store, establishing where the busiest and quietest areas are and offering valuables insights into where inventory should be placed (and potentially even whether customers are looking at specific items). This data can be used to analyse store design and hence detect where the layout is functioning poorly, blocking customers from passing through or creating choke points.

The Nike+ platform, launched in 2006, was an early example of the very literal measurement of footfall – allowing runners to track the distance that they had travelled and in what time, all recorded by their shoes and without the need for additional wearables. Of course, it also supplied the company with a huge amount of data about how its customers were engaging with its offering and using its products, all of which could be fed back into the development of future releases.

Emotional monitoring

Facebook has already conducted experiments in how the prioritisation of posts can alter users’ moods. In future, our devices may well have a sophisticated understanding of our emotional state, whether from text or speech input, from our bio-signs (such as skin temperature and pulse) or just from a visual analysis of our expressions. While there are undoubtedly regulatory concerns on this front regarding privacy and the appropriacy of such personally tailored advertising, it will open a new frontier for targeted advertising. It also raises the question: if adverts can gauge someone’s frame of mind, should they seek to mollify the customer or cater to their mood?

This might sound farfetched but it’s already, tentatively in action. Mindshare in fact used biometric sensors on a small number of scattered individuals at Wimbledon in order to gauge crowd excitement as part of their #FeelWimbledon campaign for Jaguar.

Mixed reality

The future of augmented reality offers an advanced version of the personalised, in-store experience, overlaying videos, animations and information on the real world. When these are triggered by prompts in the environment (which might be a specific image placed in a store, coming to life when viewed through an AR device) then the business can combine precise locational data with extremely detailed information about the customer’s reaction to the experience, and what they did next.

Perhaps most importantly, sensor data can provide information to validate whether marketing spend is being used efficiently. Combined with details about digital interactions, this can provide a detailed picture of what the overwhelming number of consumers are actually doing in the real world, allowing businesses to provide an increasingly personalised, agile service that is more responsive to the customer’s needs. Businesses that don’t innovate, meanwhile, will eventually be left behind.

Sensor City

Will sensor technology revolutionise marketing? Sensor City is a Liverpool-based technical innovation centre and University Enterprise Zone. Their mission is to enable industry and academic partners in a range of sectors to translate their innovative sensor concepts into commercially viable solutions. They are working on a number of exciting projects which we are hoping will test and further discuss some of the points raised in this article. Watch this space!

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