Retail Monitoring – Is it Dystopian?

Consumer monitoring has been around for a while now to track inventory and occupancy. However, the focus has shifted to the customers themselves. Knowing their demographics and preferences helps retailers rapidly adjust to customer needs. Companies such as Walgreens and Walmart are starting to leverage a variety of different technology mediums, but the dust hasn’t settled yet – there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on which technologies provide the best ROI. There’s no doubt that foot traffic patterns, customer stay duration, return rate, and other related data are useful to marketers and strategists. But this may have finally crossed the line and make us feel like Big Brother has overstayed his welcome. Or, have we become so blasé with all the data that’s being collected about us, that it’s just another day in our Brave New World? Let’s examine a few of those data gathering methods for what is ostensibly being used to better serve the customer:

Camera

Cameras are not just for loss prevention. By observing customers, information can be extracted on how long they stayed, and which products they stayed for. This provides an additional layer of analysis in determining which products are purchased on impulse, with long consideration, or not at all. It can also apply to advertisements. Customers’ demographics such as age, ethnicity, gender, and even facial expressions are all taken into consideration. In fact, technology has become so advanced that we can now do a pretty good job of analyzing facial expressions and body language.

Wi-Fi

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, Internet access included. Modern stores offer complimentary Wi-Fi, but it usually comes with a catch. Oftentimes there is a terms of service agreement that consumers usually accept without much reading. In some cases, the legal acknowledge allows the store to view the users’ website history,  though that does not have to be the case. Egen’s newly designed Crowd Intelligence ™ app allows for a tiered approach to how much data is collected, in order to adapt to customer preference. It goes a long way in providing tangible data on customers in a retail environment.

Bluetooth

Invented by Ericsson in 1994, the short distance wireless technology has been used for wireless headsets, keyboards, and file transmission. In mid 2013, Apple introduced iBeacon, a Bluetooth positioning feature built into the iOS operating system.  It allows devices called beacons to transmit signals that determine the proximity of any device with iBeacon installed. Then, businesses can send store-specific promotions, coupons, and notifications to users. However, iBeacon itself does not deliver content – that is done through websites or apps.  iBeacon is effective for malls and retail chains where there are many stores spread out geographically. While relatively new, the Walgreen’s drugstore chain Duane Reade has already installed iBeacons into 10 of its New York City stores.  Walmart is currently testing with iBeacon.

Conclusion

Even though the idea of tracking customers and their behavior might sound 1984-esque, a Cisco study shows that 52 percent of shoppers are willing to share information in return for discounts. It’s not so evil, since customers are agreeable to it and their personal data is not being exposed. The demand for monitoring technology will only increase, so it is a good idea to get into the game now. Egen’s Crowd Intelligence app uses GPS, crowd-sourcing, and Wi-Fi to provide invaluable consumer information for enterprise marketers and strategists – check it out!

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