Not only is Big Brother watching you, but now it seems stores are tracking your every move as well. They are using your cell phones to see where you go and what you buy when you are in the store.
Retailers like Nordstrom want to learn more about its customers. So last fall the company began testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones, reports The New York Times. The idea wasn’t a hit with the customers who were upset after Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them.
“We did hear some complaints,” Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the store, told the Times. The complaints in part led Nordstrom to end the experiment in May.
But Nordstrom isn’t the only company who was experimenting with the tracking program. In fact, there is a “movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it,” writes the Times.
National chains, like Family Dollar and Cabela’s and specialty stores such as Benetton and Warby Parker are using these technologies to help them decide on matters like changing store layouts and offering customized coupons.
“The idea that you’re being stalked in a store is, I think, a bit creepy, as opposed to, it’s only a cookie — they don’t really know who I am,” Robert Plant, a computer information systems professor at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, told the newspaper. He also noted that consumers can rarely control or have access to this data. And they wonder how the information is used.
Stores are also using video surveillance not only to track your movements but your emotions. Brickstream sells a stereoscopic camera that separates adults from children, and counts people in different parts of a store to determine which aisles are popular and how many cash registers to open. And cameras with sharper lenses and data-processing, that companies can actually analyze what a shopper’s mood is.
While this tracking push has raised privacy issues, other customers say they don’t mind if it meals a deal. A company named Placed has an app that asks consumers where they are in a store in exchange for cash and prepaid gift cards from Amazon and Google Plays. So far more than 500,000 people have downloaded the app since last Augus.
Would you trade privacy for bargain when shopping in a store?