Retailers hoping to track holiday shopping footsteps forced to take a step back

Retail establishments are seeking new ways to track their guests’ movements from store to store. It was recently announced that two US malls – Promenade Temecula in Southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Virginia, would experiment using customer cell phone signals to monitor their movements within a retail complex. The effort was halted due to outcries about privacy concerns and violations. The idea to track customers’ whereabouts by cell phone would not collect shoppers’ purchases or personal details, only their foot traffic while in a shopping complex.

However, shopping malls have been monitoring consumer foot traffic and behavior for many years using people counters, security cameras, heat maps, and undercover researchers. Retailers not only use this data to strategically place items in their retail storefronts (i.e. placing chocolate bars and other small goodies by the cash register) but also to determine their best sellers and prices. These forms of tracking consumer behavior can ultimately impact a retailer’s success in reaching their target market.

Many eCommerce websites also track customer traffic on the web, collecting shoppers’ names, purchases, and recent items they’ve viewed. Some even target consumers with ads after they leave a website. By combining the data with their own sales, stores in these malls can gain better intelligence on how to improve a consumer’s shopping experience, especially during the holidays. With more and more people using smart phones, it is inevitable how mobile data will influence tracking consumer behavior in the future