There’s been a lot of press the last few months about retailers using various technologies to track the movement of shoppers through their brick-and-mortar stores. The amount of backlash some of these retailers have received over their attempts to locate shoppers in the store is quite surprising to me. I’m guessing that many of the same consumers upset about the prospect of being digitally located while in a store are the same individuals who have cookies enabled for online shopping, don’t think twice about creating online profiles or use mobile social media apps such as Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook to check in and announce their location to the world.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are only now attempting what online retailers have been doing for years. Amazon and other online retailers collect volumes of shopper data and use very sophisticated tools and technologies to better understand and more effectively market to their online shoppers. The same concepts that are used to provide relevant product recommendations, coupons and other promotions to online shoppers are now be applied to the in store shopping experience using smart phone technology.
Although consumers should be concerned about their privacy, the reality is if you own and use a cell phone your location is known. Cellular service providers use GPS or cellular triangulation methods to determine your precise location out of doors, and increasingly are selling anonymous location data to various companies and marketing and sales agencies. With recent advances in technology retailers are simply extending location awareness to the store where GPS doesn’t work and cellular triangulation accuracy is problematic.
To retailers, our smart phone devices are seen as a cache of shopper information, behavioral data and a conduit that will enable them to unify the online and in store customer experience, and deliver new and innovative types of in store service and support. In store location technology just may be the silver bullet brick-and-mortar retailers need to combat the revenue and margin erosion they’ve experienced from online retailers the past 10 years. However, retailers need to take a careful and measured approach to the deployment and use of such technology, for one misstep with customer data or breach of customer trust can do irreparable damage to a brand. Above all, retailers must protect their brand and seek technology partners that have proven track records of stability and security and a similar brand reputation to uphold.
Like it or not, in store shopper location technology is here to stay and I suspect consumers will eventually accept it as they begin to experience benefits from retailers knowing where we are and have been in the store. So, this holiday season make sure your mobile WiFi is turned on while you’re shopping, opt-in to store communications and let your smart phone work for you to find discounts or coupons. Personally, I relish the idea of my smart phone saving me a few bucks for a change.
Let me know how you feel about retailers tracking your cell phone in a store with this short survey.