Targeted advertising is designed to improve the shopping experience by ensuring people are only seeing ads for things in which they are interested. That way shoppers do not become aggravated with ads that do not fit a specific shopping profile, and advertisers are not wasting their budget on people who presumably are not interested in a specific product.

When someone goes to the store, though, the ads are all the same for everyone. The signage does not know who someone is or what may interest them. Yet, this is hardly the most efficient or effective way to advertise—as is now known from Facebook’s success. The question is: How can brick-and-mortar stores create a more online-like experience?

The answer is The Internet of Things (IoT).

Cameras, combined with facial recognition technology that would allow the system to discover a store-goers sex, age, and what that person is buying would be able to create targeted advertising. A young woman with a baby may get ads for milk or formula. A middle-aged man with flowers and wine in his basket may get an ad for chocolates. Someone who has picked up hamburger, spaghetti, and sauce may get an ad for parmesan cheese. Even better, the ad kiosks could also provide coupons for these things. Regular customers may even have their data stored to create an even more personalized experience each and every time they come in.

Such a system is closer than many think. In fact, it may be coming to Walgreens already. “Smart coolers” in several stores across the country are being tested to see how customers react. Right now, they are simply advertising and not offering coupons, but there is little doubt retailers will be keeping an eye on Walgreens’ experiment.

The key is to keep the experience un-intrusive, positive, and relevant for the target audience. Stores that can do this, and avoid accidental inappropriate ads, should be able to both improve their customers’ experience and increase sales of the advertised products. Customers also will need to know that their data is not being sold and is safe and secure. That means clear signs and a good cybersecurity system.

IoT is coming to retail stores to make the shopping experience better, and advertising is a clear part of that strategy. So be on the lookout for smart coolers and other ways in which stores can customize advertisements in real time, for shoppers are sure to see some very targeted ads coming to stores soon.

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