Marketing Bootcamp

'Smart Mannequins' Are Watching You, and Sending You Photos

'Smart Mannequins' Are Watching You, and Sending You Photos
Image credit: Thomas Quine | Flickr

Mannequins are creepy to begin with: shiny, white, often headless and usually faceless.  They could easily double as props in a horror movie.

So does it make it more or less creepy that a new breed of mannequins can text and track your movements?

To combat slumping sales at brick-and-mortar retailers and declining foot traffic, The New York Times reports that mannequin makers are giving their models a high-tech upgrade.

For instance, there is Jonathan Berlin, the managing director of United Kingdom-based Universal Display, a company that sells mannequins to retailers such as Uniqlo, Lord & Taylor and Saks, among others. In the face of increasing competition from ecommerce sites, Berlin decided that it was time his mannequins worked harder to make a sale.

And so he started embedding some of them with electronic beacons (i.e. transmitters that can communicate with phones.) The result? His mannequins can now send photos of the outfits they are wearing to shoppers within a 100-foot range.

Related: The Rise of 'Nudge' Advertising

Mr. Berlin isn't the only mannequin maker layering tech capabilities onto his plastic models. The Italian company Almax has created a line of mannequins with cameras embedded in the eyes, so that they can track consumers shopping behavior, the Times reports.

While all of this is fascinating -- and yes, a little creepy -- don’t expect your local department store mannequins to start sending you messages right away. While Berlin's mannequins are currently installed in some high-end stores in the UK, they are still being tested stateside.

However, as iBeacon technology -- in which companies can send consumers' geographically targeted promotions and deals, providing they opt-in – becomes more prevalent, it's not a stretch to imagine a near-future where most mannequins text.

Related: McDonald's Boosts McNuggets Sales With iBeacon Test