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Dynamic pricing in retail : can smart shelves lead to discrimination?

We presented in another article a great innovation presented at the NRF2018 retail show this year : smart shelves.
Those smart shelves are especially interesting because of their built-in cameras to detect customers’ faces and interact accordingly with them. As the website of AWM explains, the embarked face recognition algorithms are able to detect demographic criteria like gender, ethnicity and age (see picture below, source : AWM website, captured on 18 Jan 2018).

The LED displays on the shelves are then triggered to “personalize” the interaction with the shopper. With increased tendency to personalize pricing (see our article on dynamic pricing experiments here), adapting prices in function of demographics criteria becomes easily possible. The ethics of such a system is highly questionable. Cathy O’Neil has shown in her book “weapons of math destruction” that discrimination based on demographics is more widespread than one would think. A system like the one proposed by AWM has the potential to generate even more discrimination as it may land in the hands of companies or employees who don’t understand the social values at stake here.

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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