In-Store Tracking: Personalization Innovation or Privacy Invasion?
More than three-quarters of consumers don't trust what you're doing with their information. At least that's the case if you're one of the many retailers today using in-store tracking to gather information about shoppers in an effort to target sales and promotions.
According to consumer survey firm OpinionLab, 77 percent of consumers find in-store tracking unacceptable and 81 percent don't trust retailers to keep their private data secure. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has even turned its eye toward the growing phenomenon, investigating whether new regulations may be required to keep consumers safe. Yet technology firms continue to roll out new options for in-store tracking and a growing number of retailers are adopting them. Why would retailers persist if the majority of consumers object to these practices? As they say, there are two sides to every story. We set out to investigate both perspectives and find out whether there's any middle ground to be had.
First, let's do a quick review of the technology. While there are a variety of options available, most retailers are latching onto those based on mobile device-enabled tracking. They fall into two basic categories: the first tracks the signals a digital device sends out as it connects to a retailer's Wi-Fi system and matches it to a device's MAC address (basically a unique ID number); the second uses in-store beacons to connect with (and track) devices that have the retailer's app installed on them. Both types allow retailers to monitor where consumers go inside a store, how long they spend in front of a particular shelf, etc. Beyond this basic description, the uses and implications of these technologies differ depending on who you ask.
The Pros: In-Store Tracking Improves the Consumer Experience
On the retailer and technology side, both forms of in-store tracking are seen as safe and beneficial for consumers. With the Wi-Fi-based MAC address tracking previously described, no personal data is transmitted from consumers’ devices to the retailer, allowing them to remain completely anonymous.