Stalked While You Shop?
By: Linda Bo
What if you were told that when you walk into a store, your every move is being tracked, even your consumer profile at the store is collected. Many people are unaware, but this is exactly what retails stores are doing with software designed to track customers and gather information. Brick and mortar stores such as Nordstrom and American Apparel are implementing such technologies to learn more about their customers. Even small coffee shops and bakeries are becoming more aware of new ways to learn about consumer behaviour.
A selection of different tactics is used, mainly a combination of facial recognition through video cameras and cell phone signal trackers that utilize Wi-Fi. Almost every retail store nowadays has cameras installed. Most people are also smartphone-owners, and leaving your phone’s Wi-Fi on can provide valuable information to retail companies. For instance, RetailNext provides comprehensive in-store analytics to companies by revealing detailed information regarding customers. It essentially maps the path of the shopper walking to a store. Additional data it accounts for includes recording how long the shopper stay at a fixture and recognizing returning customers. Nomi is another in-store analytics technology. It uses multiple store sensors to build a complete a profile of the store. Nomi can differentiate between adults and children that enter a store. It can also determine the populated areas of a store. From a business standpoint, it is a good idea for retail stores to track customers due to the invaluable consumer behaviour data that can be used to benefit the company. Retail stores
can gain insight on product placement, hot spots, and how to best utilize store space.
However, a key point to be noted is that all this tracking is done anonymously and often without knowledge or consent of the shoppers. Securities experts complain that this is an invasion of privacy because customers are unaware that they are being tracked. Many groups are also protesting the tracking, in favour of the privacy of consumers. Retailers respond by saying they are only doing what online stores have been doing for years through the use of Web browser tracking such as HTTP cookies. It’s true; websites have access to enormous amount of online data that they can easily obtain. In this digital era, the rise of online shopping forces brick and mortar stores to engage in what some people may deem extreme measures in order to compete. I want to end off with a question for the reader: how do you feel about being stalked while you shop?