Who is watching you?

Have you ever been walking through one of your favorite retailers and all of a sudden you feel your phone vibrating to alert you of an email that has just come through? You open it and all of a sudden a coupon from the retailer – that you are currently standing in – shows up. You think “Huh,” or “What a coincidence.”
It’s no coincidence, however. It’s one of the latest measures some of the nation’s largest retailers (Nordstrom’s, Home Depot, and Party City) are resorting to, so they can gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods. According to Euclid Analytics, this is done by using video surveillance and signals from your cell phone (WiFi) to learn things such as how long a person spends in one aisle or how long a consumer looks at an item before buying it. This information helps retailers decide where to place certain items, determine layout designs, and how many store employees are needed.

While there are benefits to both the consumer and retailers side, where do you draw the line between benefit and creep factor? This style of technology – often referred to as “Big Brother marketing” – has privacy advocates voicing their concerns. Some advocates are concerned that their data is being sold to third parties. However, Euclid Analytics says the information is used only as a tool for marketing. Consumers can control this function. All you have to do is turn the WiFi off on your cell phone and you can’t be tracked. But, you can also miss out on opportunities for discounts and coupons the retailer might be offering.

Bottom line is: How far are retailers willing to go to gather this data? Are they willing to potentially lose customers to get a better understanding of their remaining customers’ buyer behavior?