Retail technology company Cloverleaf has announced shelfPoint, an artificial intelligence solution for brick-and-mortar store shelves that is capable of classifying shopper facial expressions to measure engagement and sentiment at the moment of a purchase decision.
Cloverleaf said shelfPoint, an example an emerging AI technology segment called Emotion AI, does not capture or store specific personal images or other personal data, but can help retailers understand what customers are feeling at the time they choose a specific product from a store shelf. Cloverleaf claims that early tests of shelfPoint have helped lead to double-digit sales growth.
Cloverleaf, which partnered with Emotion AI developer Affectiva on shelfPoint, envisions the solution as a replacement for cardboard cutouts, layered sticker price tags and other stagnant shelf displays.
AI is already one of the top technologies currently reshaping retail, and Emotion AI takes it to a thrilling new level — thrilling at least for marketers who can leverage the resulting analytics in a multitude of ways.
But seriously, it's an emerging technology area within an emerging technology area, and probably worth investigating by any retailer or retailer partner that is already working with AI technology in other forms and applications. Cloverleaf seems to have aligned itself with one of the early leaders in Emotion AI. Another that possibly more people have heard of — Emotient — was snapped up by Apple a year ago this week. Affectiva appears to have landed on a lot of radars only since it raised $14 million in funding during the first half of last year, though it already has worked a couple major product brands you're bound to find on a lot of store shelves: Kellogg's and Mars.
Still, this appears to be the first Emotion AI solution specifically targeted at retailers, and seems to provide them with a means of gathering some potentially valuable data that has been hard to get at in the past. The Cloverleaf/Affectiva solution uses small LCD strips placed along a store shelf that measure shopper engagement and response, putting the sentiments measured into emotional buckets that include categories such as "joy," "sadness," "anger," "fear" or "surprise." The shelfPoint solution also uses optical sensors to collect anonymous shopper demographic data including age, gender and major ethnic group.
As Roger Kay, founder and president of market intelligence firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, said in the Cloverleaf press release, solutions to deliver insight at the moment of decision are long overdue. "Many companies have tried to address this critical moment with beacons, electronic shelf tags, and cameras, but these technologies have been inadequate," he said. "ShelfPoint could make a real difference here with its innovative approach."
Brick-and-mortar stores always seem to be fighting a losing battle against e-commerce, but maybe this is one way for them to fight back.