CNET News Video: Software tracks shoppers to find stores' hot zones
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CNET News Video: Software tracks shoppers to find stores' hot zones

2:15 /

Startup Prism Skylabs is taking advantage of security camera footage to create "heatmaps" that show where customers linger in stores. Retailers are eager to get a glimpse through this unique window into customer behavior, but how does the technology protect privacy?

-Retailers can't read customers' minds, but a new technology can help them better guess what they're thinking. This is a heatmap of Sunhee Moon. A San Francisco boutique named after its owner. The image was generated by Prism Skylabs' software using video from security cameras. -We can build what we call heatmap, showing you perhaps maybe the areas that customers are standing or we can try to understand product lift, which products are being touched or moved. -By learning where customers linger, businesses can strategically place key products in hotspots. It's definitely colorful on this side of the store and that's a result of this heatmap feature. -Exactly, so we try to keep the customers engaged by color, by items, by prints. -And increased engagement leads to sales. Moon isn't sure how much revenue as a result of the service, but she says it's worth the $50 monthly fee. -I can be in Asia and, you know, look into my store and see how customers are moving through the store, see if the mannequins are working, see if the displays look good. -The software has other features. Timeline shows activity levels helping owners make smart staffing decisions while path maps reveal how customers navigate the store. Prism Skylabs launched last November and like most startups, it isn't divulging much about its customers. It has said that dozens of companies are using its product from small businesses to a large electronics retailer. The company isn't breaking completely new ground. RetailNext also provides heatmaps as well as figures like store visitors per day, and average sales per customer. Though Prism Skylabs sets itself apart in a unique way, which may reassure anyone who finds the thought of being analyzed while shopping creepy. -So we never track, we never identify any people. We can actually cleanly and completely remove people altogether. -And of course, if the technology can read customers' minds, retailers would welcome that, too. In San Francisco, I'm Sumi Das, cnet.com for CBS News.

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