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Saturday, September 28, 2013

In-Store Tracking is it the Same Thing as the Internet?

I have become very intrigued about the latest technology which tracks your smart phone in a store without you knowing it. This technology captures your phones MAC address off the wireless network and then with specialized devices keeps track of that MAC address (you!). This is not just on this occasion but any occasion there after it knows it is you or at least your phone. All of this information is then consolidated and analyzed to provide very interesting information like:

  •         Number of visitors per day
  •          Avg. time spent per visit
  •          Number new visitors
  •          Number repeating visitors
  •          Number of visits
  •          Avg. time spent by area (zone)
  •          Number of days from last visit
  •          Walk by traffic vs. walk in traffic

The idea is that this tracking is no different than what happens when you are on the internet and using Google analytics. Your IP address is exposed, used and analyzed for all sorts of things that you know and don’t know about. So is your reaction to this technology that it is a good thing, a bad thing or just another version of what is already being captured about your movements? My first reaction was that this is intrusive and I should be told this tracking is happening! Really, that would mean all of these video cameras placed everywhere now including retail stores should notify me and give me a choice as to whether they can record me. I am actually only giving my MAC address without any personal information like my IP address on my computer. What if a retailer could connect you and all of your personal shopping data to this MAC address? You then become a person walking around the store not a series of numbers. What if you had a trusted relationship with this retailer and could opt in allowing the retailer to offer you direct promotions based on your particular wants and desires? The retailer could even begin to map your travels in their store and better understand where and what you spend your time doing. Is this something you would opt in to receive or do you believe it is just too creepy?

Amazon does this on the internet and is forever refining what they offer or suggest for me to purchase. They have now gone so far as to ask me to give them additional information about the what and why of the items I purchased. BTW, I really like Amazon and the value they bring me! So is this location based tracking with real-time offers in the store significantly different than what Amazon is doing today on the internet?  Is this in fact the “next turn of the crank” in technology to significantly improve the customer experience? I think these sorts of technologies ride on a slippery slope, but as I stated earlier we are all ready “pregnant”.  As long as the retailer uses your information to provide you with better product offers and services while never betraying your trust, I believe it might be just the thing to bridge the omni-channel world. Please give me your thoughts.


  1. Hi Will- I think you hit the nail on the head here. The online world has had and continues to increase the amount of information they gain from your personal web browsing history - in your own home. Physical retail had been at a disadvantage without first this information, and second, a means for delivering the personalized shopping experience that online provides. It's rare to ever hear mention to privacy concerns with online retail, and even with these new tracking technologies, physical retail is still only capturing a fraction of what the online guys can. There are companies in the e-commerce space that can go as far as identifying (by name, address, etc..) and profiling a web page visitor without them needing to log in - just by using the web footprint that you leave.

    I love my Amazon experience, and the fact that I am informed of products that I would be interested in (not only on their web site, but also with the chaser ads on other web sites - such as my local news channels). Physical retail finally has the tools to not only capture similar analytics, but also drive a more engaging and personalized digital experience in-store with this knowledge.

    1. Michael thanks for your comments. Very well stated! I hope more of you can give your opinion on this emerging technology.


  2. Hi Will;
    This is spot on! If we want to improve customer experiences, we do need to know about our customer. This type of info, to me, is not creepy at all. Creepy is analyzing my purchases and figuring out I'm pregnant such as the case back last year with Target.

    The trouble we are seeing in retail right now is that they are collecting piles of data but still don't know what to do with it. Looking for that magic bullet when the answer is unique to each retailer and requires that they understand their customers and what their customer expects/wants from them. Well said!

  3. For a one-time fee of $179, it's a good buy if you don't need real-time monitoring, and as long as you can put up with some design headaches. Fleet automation with GPS