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Retailing, the High-Tech Way

From in-store cameras to data-mining loyalty-card use and beyond, retailers are depending more and more on technology to boost sales

When you last went to the grocery store, did you take a long time deciding whether you should purchase that box of Tide detergent? And by chance, did you place back on the shelf the Bounce softening sheets after scrutinizing the box? Did you then pick up a competing brand? All these actions may have been monitored for Procter & Gamble (PG ) to help it translate your behavior into ways to better package and position its Tide, Bounce, and Downy brands to capture more of your business.

How is all that information collected? The minute you enter some stores, motion sensors and cameras are detecting your every move and expression. Then it's all digitized and scrutinized. "We don't want to rely on intuition anymore. We want to base all our decisions on facts," says Simon Angove, president of Brickstream, which studies customer behavior for Best Buy (BBY ), Bank of America (BAC ), CVS (CVS ), P&G, and others.