NEW YORK: Microsoft and Intel have teamed up to help in the production of cutting-edge digital signage, which could improve retailers' in-store marketing.

The new signs are to incorporate interactive touch screens as well as a visual promotional display, allowing shoppers to explore product lines and gain access to items such as discount coupons.

Cameras and software contained in the signs are able to ascertain a user's age and gender through facial recognition technology.

Customer usage data can also be fed back to marketers, assisting in the development of future promotions and campaigns.

Joe Jensen, general manager of Intel's embedded computing division, said: "Every year retailers lose more ground to online [sellers], and they have to do something about that."

Ilya Bukshteyn, a senior director of marketing at Microsoft, added: "People are getting a more personalized experience online today than they were a few years ago, but there are a lot of items you want to shop for physically."

Future developments could allow the interactive signs to mimic a common sales technique currently offered by online vendors such as Amazon, whereby customers are contacted with new recommendations based on their previous purchasing habits.

However, Microsoft and Intel said the sign technology is currently only able to gather data on individual physical traits such as gender, and cannot ascertain the individual identities of returning customers.

Nikki Baird, managing partner of Retail Systems Research, said shoppers are likely to have privacy concerns over any signs enabled for tracking their in-store shopping habits.

Microsoft and Intel are to identify software and chips suitable for the "embedded" computing technology.

The firms plan to assist other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and NCR, to develop the signs themselves.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff