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.”
Is tracking consumers ethical and legal?
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.