, ,

etailers are able to capture large amounts of information about customers when customers make purchases or browse online.  Websites can track what items customers linger on, how long they stay on a site, what kind of comparisons they make, etc.  Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are unable to capture information like this until the customer actually makes a purchase.  These stores would like to capture the same type of customer analytics in-stores as they get online.

Artcile 3Retailers already have cameras that are used to prevent theft.  In addition, brick-and-mortar stores also have Wi-Fi networks to pick up mobile phone signals.  Companies are now scrambling to determine how this existing technology can help them study customers in brick-and-mortar stores.

For many retailers, just knowing when and how many customers enter a store is valuable information.  Now retailers are using the loss prevention cameras to study traffic data above stores’ entrances.  This allows retailers to adjust staff scheduling to accommodate increases in traffic.   In addition, existing crime-fighting cameras can also estimate shoppers’ sex and age and use heat maps to determine how customers move around the store.  Some retailers also have mannequins with cameras in their eyes.  These cameras track customers and are able to determine sex, age, and ethnicity.

Using existing mobile phone technology, retailers can determine what share of passers-by enters a store and how many people leave immediately or are repeat customers.

Retailers want to use technology to better understand customers in order to add value and meet their needs; however employing increasing amounts of technology and tracking tools may scare off some customers.  Some retailers believe that customers should have no expectation of privacy when they enter a mall.

Discussion Questions:

1. How can retailers use in-store cameras other than catching shoplifters?

2. How do you feel about in-store cameras watching you without your knowledge or permission?

3. If you are troubled by in-store cameras watching you, does it bother you that websites track your movement through their sites?  Is there a difference?  Why or why not?


SOURCE: The Economist, February 9, 2013