- Retailers across the globe are tracking shoppers without their consent
- Technology providers will not name the stores
- Nordstrom ended their use of this technology in May
By Ryan Gorman
PUBLISHED: 18:50 EST, 15 July 2013 | UPDATED: 19:28 EST, 15 July 2013
Add retailers to the list of groups tracking the movements and habits of unsuspecting people.
In an effort to gain the competitive advantage websites have had for years, stores have begun tracking shoppers movements and moods through their cell phones and with special cameras that can recognize facial expressions – without shoppers’ consent. Recent reports of this activity have raised privacy concerns despite repeated assurances from merchants that no personal information is collected from devices.
Some the stores using the tracking technology are Benetton, Cabelas, Family Dollar, Mothercare and Warby Parker according to reports. Nordstrom used the technology last autumn in a pilot, but discontinued the program after public outcry.
Tracking you: Nordstrom was tracking shopper movements through the WiFi signals in their cell phones until ending the program earlier this year
Nordstrom stores posted signs telling customers about the tracking program, but shoppers interviewed by a Denver TV station were unaware of it since the signs were placed in hard to notice locations, near an entrance at floor level in one instance.
One shopper told the station it was ‘scary’ and another called it an invasion of her privacy.
Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack were able to track shopper behaviors via a smartphone’s wifi signal, which allowed the retailer to analyse how long a shopper spent in a particular area and to track shopper movements, as well as how many people that walked past the store decided to walk in, according to a report by the New York Times.
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Nordstrom stopped the pilot in May after customer complaints became too numerous, according to reports.
John Fu a spokesperson for Euclid, the firm who supplied the technology, told the station that his firm doesn’t identify shoppers and declined to name other stores using the tracking tech
‘We never know the name or identity of a particular consumer, so you know, we don’t identify the names of our clients either,’ Fu added.
Not just in the store: Shoppers not even entering stores can be tracked with the technology
Notice: This sign notifying shoppers they were being tracked was found by a Denver TV station – practically on the floor
‘Brick-and-mortar stores have been disadvantaged compared with online retailers, which get people’s digital crumbs,’ Guido Jouret, head of technology firm Cisco’s emerging technologies group, told the Times.
Cisco is one of a number of vendors that provide cameras to stores looking to track how long people spend in a given department, which can tell them how to best organize stores or streamline individual aisles.
RetailNext, according to the Times, combines the power of video with the trail of cookie crumbs left behind by cell phones. Their technology is able to not only track shopper movements, but also identify repeat customers – without a phone even connecting to store’s WiFi network. This is because phones looking for WiFi networks still send a unique identifier even if they don’t connect to a specific network.
Stores are also using cameras to analyze facial expressions and moods.
Synqera, based in Russia, uses facial recognition at store checkouts to tailor marketing based on gender, age and mood, according to the Times.
‘If you are an angry man of 30, and it is Friday evening, it may offer you a bottle of whiskey,’ Ekaterina Savchenko told the paper.
Other companies allow people to opt-in and provide some basic personal information that pinpoints them in a store department and can send them coupons aimed at encouraging a purchase, something at least one shopper who spoke to the Times liked.
‘I would just love it if a coupon pops up on my phone,’ Linda Vertlieb said.
Mail Online was unable to reach any of the stores or technology vendors named in this article for further comment.