Is Emotion Tracking the Next Big Thing?

Is Emotion Tracking the Next Big Thing? It seems we’re entering the age of emotion tracking. There’s been some activity in facial tracking and emotion recognition for a while. Particularly in advertising. But it’s never really been on a consumer level. Until now…

Written by Cate Trotter

Imagine if retailers had access to emotional data for every customer. How could they respond? If a customer entered the store feeling stressed, it could be that they are in a hurry or need something urgently. The retailer could recognize that emotion and send an assistant over to help them get what they need quickly. If a customer came in feeling sad, the retailer could send them a personalized offer to try and lift their mood. If a customer is tired they could open up another till or send an assistant over with a mobile POS system to stop them waiting around in-store. And if a customer is already happy it could be the perfect time to show them a new product they might like.

Or it might be that a retailer can recognize how a customer’s mood changes as they travel around the store. If they become annoyed when looking at a certain item it could be that it’s not in their size. This presents an opportunity for the retailer to send an assistant over who could offer to order the item in or transfer it from another store. Or the retailer could send an email to the customer enabling them to order that item online.

This also works if the customer grows happy in certain parts of the store. Retailers can pinpoint the products that lifted their mood and suggest other items they might like. It could provide insights into the ranges that people want to see and those they don’t.

Or it may be able to show retailers what works when it comes to store design. What are customers responding to – whether in a good or bad way? And it could help them know exactly when pressure points such as queuing start to impact on customer moods. How long a wait is too long?

Within a shopping centre or area with lots of stores, retailers could use emotion tracking to direct customers towards them. For example, if the customer seems to be tired a nearby coffee chain could ping them an offer or remind them they have their favorite product available.

Of course having access to the data is one thing. Customers would need to choose to share the data with retailers. The highly personal nature of data is one barrier to sharing it. Customers would need to see an extremely strong benefit in doing so.

Likewise, the thing missing from emotion tracking is context, which is key to understanding why customers feel the way they do at any particular time. As mentioned, facial recognition is an area that has been connected to emotion tracking for some time. And just this year Apple bought Emotient, an AI start-up that reads emotions by analyzing facial expressions, showing even tech giants are looking at the space. This area could lead into analyzing body language as well.

It could easily be incorporated into in-store mirrors and digital displays to let retailers track how customers respond to what they see. In turn this could help retailers change their adverts to resonate with certain groups of customers.

There could even be scope for retailers to provide in-store emotion trackers that customers can wear while they shop. They could then analyze the data and help guide customers on their purchases. For example, when clothes shopping they could see which colors or styles made the customer happier.

With so many potential applications, emotion tracking could be a key element of future retailing. After all, the role they already play in many purchases shouldn’t be ignored. And it may not be that long before retailers can harness them as well.

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