- Online marketplace eBay opened a two-day London pop-up store this week containing biometric pods that measure shoppers' facial recognition in the interest of helping them figure out which holiday gifts they would feel best about giving to their loved ones.
- The biometrics pods in the pop-up store provided visitors with a series of 12 product images to react to and study as they thought of different people in their lives. The shoppers who participated were then sent a list of products that appealed to them the most.
- The use of the in-store pods followed a previous study from eBay and analytics firm Lightwave that suggested the pressure of holiday shopping stress is akin to running a marathon, and that 60% of online holiday shoppers hit a "wall of disenchantment" after only about 32 minutes of browsing for gifts, feeling too fatigued to go on.
As legendary Jedi Master Yoda once said of the importance of finding the right holiday gifts for your loved ones, "Do, or do not. There is no 'try.'"
Okay, maybe Yoda wasn't talking about the inherent pressure of holiday shopping, but that is pretty much the kind of stress we have come to put on ourselves. We feel like we have to find the perfect gifts for our family and friends — not just something we think they would like or would be useful to them, but the absolute perfect item.
There is probably a lot wrong with that whole line of thinking that science, facial recognition technology and analytics can't fix, but you can't blame eBay for trying. And as with many retailer efforts to "help" shoppers, the ultimate goal is to get them into whatever mode they need to be in to open their wallets and complete the purchases they have been hemming and hawing about.
It sounds like a lot of thought, research and probably money went into this application of biometrics in a retail setting, which is maybe part of the reason why it's being used in a brief pop-up store format. Maybe if we hear that people followed the advice they received from this process, and that everything worked out in the end, similar biometric pods will start popping up in non-pop-up settings. Although eBay and other retailers should seek some serious hard evidence that it works before they go that far down the biometric pod path.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.