Threatened by competition from online retailers, shops are introducing new technologies to find out more about you, the customer. Do you find shops analysing your behaviour creepy, or are you happy to accept it?
You may not realise it, but when you’re sifting through shirts to find the right size, or deliberating over which brand of shampoo to buy, what you’re doing is both fascinating and valuable to retailers.
That’s why new technologies that monitor shoppers’ behaviour are becoming more common.
What shops are doing
Your smartphone is a great source of information for shops. It’s constantly communicating with nearby phone masts and wi-fi networks, and in doing so it’s sending out unique IDs which some shops can pick up. They use them to measure how often you visit the store, how long you spend in there and how you move around. They can even track people who are just walking past.
Sign in to the in-store wi-fi, and shops can find out even more about you. Some in-store wi-fi providers track customers’ locations within the store, and cross-reference this with any demographic information you’ve provided. In some cases, the sites and apps you use over the wi-fi are recorded and fed back to the store.
Then there’s in-store movement tracking cameras. These can measure how many people are going in and out of a store, which areas of the shop you’re spending time in and for how long, and even the items you’re picking up off the shelf.
And some digital video screens showing adverts can scan your face and determine whether you’re male or female and which age bracket you fall in to, just by examining facial characteristics. Advertisers look at the demographic data for particular times and places, and use it to tailor the ads they show.
Creepy, or nothing to worry about?
To me, there’s something inherently uncomfortable about a camera tracking your movements or analysing your facial features, even if you’re not being filmed. But the solution shouldn’t be for shops to keep quiet about the tracking that’s being done.
Shops should be upfront about what monitoring they’re doing, explaining the benefits for customers and laying out how their anonymity will be protected – and where possible, they should provide a way for customers to opt out if they’re still not comfortable with it.
What do you think – does it make you uncomfortable to know that shops are analysing your behaviour? Or do you think it will make for a better shopping experience?