Thousand Oaks’ oldest mall has, since July 4, 2018, been using cameras and facial recognition technology to track shopper habits.
Mall owner NewMark Merrill is using aggregate information collected from the cameras at Janss Marketplace and some of its other shopping centers to zero in on shopping habits of various demographics.
“It’s looking at people’s faces and makes certain assumptions like . . . this is a man or woman or child,” said the company’s chief executive, Sandy Sigal. “We are looking at aggregated information: females 30 and over tend to go to the right but never seem to go to the left (when entering the mall); adults go to the gym in the morning; there are lots of kids between 6 and 10 going to DojoBoom on Saturdays.”
What the company is not doing is connecting images to names or keeping data on individuals, he said.
“We’re storing no personal information. There’s no connection between a face and a name,” Sigal said.
Because of that, the mall can’t and won’t be sending out marketing material based on the data collected, unlike with some shopping centers using similar cameras.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings Inc., which develops artificial intelligence, has clients who use collected data to track down customers and sign them up for loyalty programs. That is not the case at the Janss Marketplace.
“Nobody is going to get anything from us because there were cameras there,” Sigal said, though he noted that shoppers can opt to receive advertisements online, but that is unrelated to the cameras.
The intent behind using the technology, Sigal said, is to help the mall’s tenants be more successful as they compete with retailers in the nearby Oaks mall as well as Amazon and other online retailers. It’s also aimed at making the shopping experience better for customers.
For example, if shoppers aren’t going down a certain corridor at night—thus skipping all the stores in that direction—it might indicate the mall needs to install more lighting there, he said.
NewMark can also tell store owners how many people enter their stores at specific times of day, how they react to windows with lighting as opposed to those without and other facts pertaining to specific establishments.
Currently, the mall itself has no cameras inside stores, though individual shops might have their own security cameras.
The technology is something Sigal has been working with for four years, but Janss only got its cameras last year.
The company began the program on a day it knew would be busy: Independence Day.
“It did what it was supposed to do: told us where people entered the mall from, how many people were in the corridors and in the parking lot,” Sigal said.
It’s been so successful, in fact, that NewMark is planning to roll the technology out to five more of its 80 shopping centers.
By Becca Whitnall