Attention, shoppers: Store is tracking you via your smartphone

“Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades,” Stephanie Clifford and Quentin Hardy report for The New York Times. “So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.”

“But when Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, shoppers were unnerved,” Clifford and Hardy report. “‘We did hear some complaints,’ said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the store. Nordstrom ended the experiment in May, she said, in part because of the comments.”

“Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it,” Clifford and Hardy report. “But while consumers seem to have no problem with cookies, profiles and other online tools that let e-commerce sites know who they are and how they shop, some bristle at the physical version, at a time when government surveillance — of telephone calls, Internet activity and Postal Service deliveries — is front and center because of the leaks by Edward J. Snowden.”

Clifford and Hardy report, “If a shopper’s phone is set to look for Wi-Fi networks, a store that offers Wi-Fi can pinpoint where the shopper is in the store, within a 10-foot radius, even if the shopper does not connect to the network, said Tim Callan, RetailNext’s chief marketing officer… The store can also recognize returning shoppers, because mobile devices send unique identification codes when they search for networks. That means stores can now tell how repeat customers behave and the average time between visits… Nomi, of New York, uses Wi-Fi to track customers’ behavior in a store, but goes one step further by matching a phone with an individual.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Wonder if some retailers are also tracking what web site(s) you’re visiting in the store in order to compare prices while using their public Wi-Fi? We’d say it’s highly likely. God only knows what else they’re tracking.

We ought to launch a Kickstarter project for a portable, roll-up mirror for users to place over the ones in retail store changing rooms (if there isn’t one already).</blockquote

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader "David G." for the heads up.]

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