You’re Being Watched And Tracked in Stores and Online.

According to Smart Places, an organization striving to provide more details about mobile location analytics (MLA) to consumers, many companies are using cellphone Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to collect data from consumers possibly without them even realizing it.

“A store doesn’t need to see my every move. Stop being creepy. Seriously, stop trying to convince people that abusing their privacy is a good thing. You don’t need this information”

There are several ways companies can collect data from simply having your phone connected whether you’re entering a store or waiting around for your flight at the airport.

MLA technology can be very useful for companies trying to determine consumer behaviors while visiting their store, but it can be a little unethical if consumers are not aware they are being tracked from their cellphone. Venues utilizing MLA and beacon technology allows companies to collect data such as seeing where a customer goes throughout a store, how long they spend in a certain aisle, see which products and locations in a store are most popular, and the 12-digit address from their cellphone. This information could help the company target specific advertisements to certain consumers, make sure their marketing displays are effective, and also help the store-related issues such as the best emergency evacuation plan and cutting down the wait time for current consumers.

According to a study by PunchTab, 50% of consumers expressed privacy concerns as a reason for not wanting brands to track their locations and 36% described reasons related to irrelevant or excessive marketing. One participant was even quoted as saying, “A store doesn’t need to see my every move. Stop being creepy. Seriously, stop trying to convince people that abusing their privacy is a good thing. You don’t need this information.”

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Is tracking consumers ethical and legal?

 

Although stores are collecting data, the big question is whether or not it’s ethical or legal. As shown above, not many people enjoy being tracked and several retailers such as Nordstorm, Philz Coffee, and even the city of London have all stopped using mobile tracking due to consumers’ privacy concerns. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently been pushing for more disclosure and transparency from companies planning on collecting data and tracking consumers. For example, a company should have a privacy policy on their website or app that tells consumers what data is being collected, how it’s being collected, and how the collected data will be used. However, not a lot of people seem to care that stores want to collect data to better their consumer experience.

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According to a study from OpinionLab, 8 out of 10 consumers find it unacceptable to be tracked by their cellphone in the store and of those consumers, 88% remain unswayed by retailers’ promises to use tracking data to improve the customer experience. Actually, nearly half of the participants (43%) of the study said they are less likely to shop at a favorite retailer if the brand implements a tracking program.

So although a store may be following FTC guidelines on transparency, disclosure, and giving consumers an “opt-out” feature, it’s important to ask if it’s worth it if their consumers want to avoid it as far as not shopping at their store.

One thought on “You’re Being Watched And Tracked in Stores and Online.

  1. Hi Natasha,

    Nice post!

    Personally, I see no problem with companies collecting information such as the information you described in this blog.

    “A company should have a privacy policy on their website or app that tells consumers what data is being collected, how it’s being collected, and how the collected data will be used.”

    I agree with your statement, but at the end of the day I’m not going to care what information is collected. I go into a store or visit a website for the sole purpose to buy what I want. If Nordstrom has a nice shirt and it’s being sold for a good price then I’m going to buy it. I’m going to buy a product regardless as to what information is being collected by marketers.

    Like

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