Get Ready To Be Tracked Next Time You Go Shopping

black friday teens shoppingTeens shop in Fargo, North Dakota on Black Friday.

It’s becoming more commonplace for physical retailers to track you from the moment you enter the store. 

That’s because physical retail stores still account for 90% of all purchases.

Retailers like Nordstrom, Family Dollar, and Warby Parker are gathering customer data from smartphones and using video surveillance to determine optimal store layouts and customised coupons offerings, The New York Times reports.

Using Wi-Fi signals from your smartphone, retailers can gain insights about how much time you spend in the store, which sections you spend the most time in, and how long it takes you to browse before making a purchase. 

Some people argue that it’s a huge invasion of privacy. But retailers maintain that tracking customers in the physical retail environment is the same as tracking them online through cookies. 

Finnish startup Walkbase is among several companies aiming to help retailers learn more about their customers’ behaviour.

Walkbase tracks every customer with a WLAN-enabled smartphone. That means any phone with Wi-Fi turned on is subject to tracking, but all of the data collected is completely anonymous. Users can also opt-out of being tracked by simply turning off Wi-Fi.

Walkbase provides analytics like capture rate (percentage of passerbys that actually walk into the store), volume trends (changes in foot traffic), dwell time (how long they spend inside the store), repeat versus new customers, and behaviour inside the store.

New York startup Nomi similarly relies on a customer’s smartphone to provide real-time analytics to traditional retailers. But Nomi actually matches each phone with an individual in order to create a profile of them. The profile features information like recent visits, purchase history, and Web browsing history.

But Nomi and Walkbase are just two of many companies trying to help retailers learn more about their customers and better compete against e-commerce giants like Amazon.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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