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Retailers use cell phone Wi-Fi signals to track customers in stores


News by Andrew Kameka on Monday July 15, 2013.

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Customer data is a precious commodity for retailers, which is why companies spend billions of dollars each year to know consumer habits, preferences, and history. The data is so valuable that some retailers have installed systems that allow them to monitor customer movements and frequency of visiting the store using their smartphones' Wi-Fi signals.

The New York Times has published an article detailing the various ways in which retailers are using technology to monitor how shoppers navigate the store and how much time is spent in a given area. Among the methods used, some stores use a phone's Wi-Fi signal to track customer movements throughout the store. Though companies claim that the data is anonymized, others use volunteered information like email addresses or a store's official app to connect a signal to an individual, which allows for targeted offers and long-term monitoring.

Nordstrom, Family Dollar, Mothercare, Benetton, and Warby Parker are among the stores that use tracking systems or are in the testing phase of programs in the U.S. or U.K. Advocates of the snooping initiatives say that they are merely modernizing brick-and-mortar shops with the same tracking abilities already available to online retailers that use cookies to gain user data. However, some stores have heard complaints from customers who are not keen on being tracked.

It appears that more stores will follow the lead of online retailers and start tracking their customers. Companies are motivated by sales and profits, and tracking programs can help maximize both by finding better layouts for stores, helping target promotions, and analyze data to determine what changes would best reach customers. Smartphone owners regularly submit their location and contacts data to apps, and it seems likely that they will increasingly surrender that same information to their local Macy's store just as easily as they would to Macys.com.

source: NY Times

 
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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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