The topic of in-store personalization is popular this month. eCommerce consumers are accustomed to and prefer having content personalized even if it means having some of their browsing activity captured and analyzed. However, they don’t seem ready for the same experience in-store. Technologies are available now that allow retailers to track customer activity via Wi-Fi signals on mobile devices and capture customer sentiment by using cameras that can detect a shopper’s mood. Companies like San Francisco-based Philz Coffee and vintage-inspired prescription eyeglass company Warby Parker on up to large retailers like Nordstrom and Benetton are testing these technologies in order to optimize experiences for customers. So far it appears that customers aren’t comfortable with having their real life activities tracked—at least not yet. Learn why in this personalization round up from July.
“Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell,” New York Times – Retailers are tracking consumer behavior both on the web and now, in-store, too. Tracking consumer behavior has become common for ecommerce shoppers and even expected as a way to get a personalized experience. But retailers serious about improving their in-store experience have been testing technologies that let them track the movement of customers by following the Wi-Fi signals from their mobile devices. When Nordstrom tried to implement this in their physical stores, they received pushback from uncomfortable customers and eventually ended the experiment. Nordstrom, isn’t the only brick and mortar store testing out new technology. It will be interesting to see if/when consumers will grow comfortable with this type of tracking. As history has shown, if marketers use the data to benefit the customer by offering personalized experiences, customers will likely become comfortable with at least some minimal level of in-store tracking.
“In-Store Tracking Companies Try to Self-Regulate Privacy,” Slate – To compete with their online counterparts brick and mortar stores are trying to capture and analyze consumer data to personalize and target content in order to drive purchase conversion and order values up. One company that provides monitoring technology is Euclid—self-described as “Google Analytics for the physical world.” Euclid tracks signals from Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices to collect data like your physical location, your device’s MAC address and more. With that data, Euclid can report on anything from the success of window displays in driving store traffic to information about customers outside of the store, even data about a shopper’s movement within the store. Other technologies track facial expressions and shopper sentiment. NEC IT Solutions, for example, uses facial recognition to alert salespeople when celebrities or high-net worth customers are in the store. Customers, however, find these to be creepy. As a result, several of these in-store tracking companies have joined together to create a set of “best practices”. They announced that they are working with the Future of Privacy Forum to ensure that the solutions are “subject to privacy controls and are used responsibly to improve the customer shopping experience.”
“I Know What You Did Last Errand,” The Atlantic – Another technology solution to pop up recently is the ability to capture consumer age, gender and mood as they shop in-store. Whether it’s by capturing video footage of customer movement throughout the store to optimize product placement or recording facial expressions to capture customer sentiment, brick and mortar stores are trying to create physical breadcrumbs and level the playing field with their online counterparts. Opponents of these in-store tracking technologies say there’s a difference between tracking activity online where users have some degree of control over personally identifiable information (PII), and collecting user data in-store where consumers have no control over what is being collected.
“High-End Store Use Facial Recognition Tools To Spot VIPs,” NPR – Facial recognition solutions like NEC IT Solutions have tools that recognize VIPs. One example cited in this article is when actress Mindy Kaling walked into a Los Angeles boutique without being recognized by the sales associates. Not only can these systems recognize celebrities, high net-worth individuals and frequent shoppers (not to mention alert sales associates), but also can send details about a customer’s past purchases and/or clothing size. In-store tracking and facial recognition solutions have some consumers concerned about their privacy. But while some believe these are intrusive and inappropriate, others argue that the level of convenience will eventually outweigh any privacy concerns, which is exactly what has happened in the online world.