Big Brother is Watching You

In order for supermarkets to measure their success, they currently use the point-of-purchase merchandise technique to determine the effectiveness of influencing impulse buys and overall store performance.  Because many of the point-of-purchase sales are unplanned and spontaneous, asking consumers why they picked a particular product is not as effective as using camera based observational research to more effectively market products and increase revenue.  Two options for camera based observational research exist.

The first is to use surveillance cameras to monitor the flow and “hot spots” of a supermarket along with determining the effectiveness of displays.  Supermarkets will often post signs alerting consumers to the observational research.  In cases where consumers will be interviewed, they are asked to give their consent to be filmed.  Either way, consumers are filmed by security surveillance systems in which laws do not exist as to how the video footage is used.

Option two is to pay consumers as volunteers to use eye-mark technology to record the movement of their pupil as it hones in on the products that are attention getting and counts the length of time the product was fixated on, which will enhance product marketing for future profit gain.  Although option two is a preconscious choice, researchers are able to glean much more information than a consumer realizes about their shopping behavior: therefore, controlling their purchases.


1.  Does the use of highly developed marketing research technology infringe on a consumer’s right to  privacy?

2.  If consumers are aware of being taped or consent to volunteer in market research, what concern, if any,  does this raise if supermarkets are able to control impulse buys and profit from spontaneous purchases?


3 Responses to Big Brother is Watching You

  1. Wende says:

    1. Taking the deontological approach, I believe it is an infringement of a consumer’s right to privacy, whether the consumer is aware or unaware of the video surveillance research, when supermarkets have the freedom to use their surveillance footage in any way they choose now or in the future. This goes for option two as well, for again even though the consumer has given their consent and may be getting compensated for the eye-mark research being performed on them, the consumer has no control or say over how the research will be used or how it may affect them in their future.

  2. Wende says:

    2. I am not concerned about supermarkets being able to improve impulse buying and profiting through high tech research that gleans a consumer’s shopping habits. Market research is very important to the retail business and I believe impulse buying is the consumers’ responsibility. However, I hate to think we could be faced with even more illicit material in the checkout lines…

  3. greenmba2008 says:

    I’m not bothered by the issue of privacy. I’m upset with the practice of encouraging impulse buying. I think, especially with today’s awareness of our environmental crisis, that it is unethical to try to increase market sales. Our culture encourages us to spend money and consume. Our value is measured by how many possessions we have. Companies should not waste time and money trying to market products; they should spend time and money finding ways to produce quality, healthy, beneficial products, not a catchy label. Research’s aim should be to improve the products influence on our planet for the long-term not to increase company profits, and shareholder payouts, for the short-term.

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