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M&S among retailers testing Wi-Fi analytics to track in-store customer movement

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The Telegraph has revealed that several UK retailers are using Wi-Fi technology to track customer movements throughout their stores.

Retailers including Marks & Spencer have deployed technology which can identify the pings sent by smartphones when searching for Wi-Fi networks. This allows the retailers to record the number of customers entering stores as well as tracking their movements within them.  Using the data generated, retailers can make informed changes to store layouts and product placement.

An M&S spokesperson said: “We’re trialling this technology in four stores at the moment and it’s really looking at footfall and time spent in store, and where that smartphone is moving.”

Walkbase, a Wi-Fi analytics company from Finland, has several UK retail clients, including Topshop and Morrisons.  Analysis of data taken from customers who were not logged into Topshop’s Oxford Street store Wi-Fi has even lead to the retailer making changes to its opening hours.

Morrisons has also used Walkbase technology to identify that more checkout staff were needed at peak times, having noted that customers were abandoning baskets of goods and leaving the store empty handed.

According to the article, some stores in London’s Westfield shopping centres have been using the location-tracking technology to send adverts to customers while shopping within their stores. Customers using their phones to compare prices at other stores are also being sent immediate discounts to encourage them to make purchases.  

Customers wanting to use free, in-store Wi-Fi are generally required to provide the retailers with personal details, or agree to terms and conditions that can include sharing their information with third parties and allowing their movements to be monitored.  Privacy campaigners believe that despite agreeing to these terms, customers are not fully aware of how their information is being used, and are calling for retailers to display notices around stores, similar to those used to warn people that they are being monitored by CCTV.

The CEO of Big Brother WatchRenate Samson, told The Telegraph:

"It’s a huge problem, and most people don’t even know that their own phone is being used to monitor them,” adding, “In some big shopping malls, you are actually being tracked from shop to shop."

Samson said: “Shops will say they are just trying to make the experience more personalised and better, but why aren’t there signs warning people that it is happening, like for CCTV?

“When you login there need to be explicit opt-in procedures so people know what they are signing up for and can say whether they want their data to be used for analysis.

“Not only is it an invasion of privacy but it’s a security risk. Nobody knows how safe these networks are, and who is to say that the Wi-Fi network you join is legitimate.”

Walkbase’s Ed Armishaw, head of customer acquisition, told The Telegraph: “Through the anonymous detection of Wi-Fi signals emitted from smartphones, retailers now have the ability to far better understand shopper behaviour in-store.

"Everything from where they go, what they look at, how long they engage with a product and whether all this ultimately results in a sale, can all be anonymously monitored and used to make each experience more personal.”

According to the article, Apple and Google will soon launch a service which can be deployed by retailers to guide customers to their stores, and then direct them to the specific item they wish to purchase.

Source : Insight DIY

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28 December 2016

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