On Sunday (July 14), Stephanie Clifford and Quentin Hardy of the New York Times published an article about retailers tracking in-store customers' behavior, either via video or Wi-Fi signals.
Nordstrom began testing this kind of technology last fall, but when it posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, "shoppers were unnerved," Clifford and Hardy wrote.
Retailers have been tracking customers for a while now, but customers are only offended if they find out.
"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."
Tracking customers in-store has been going on for some time (see: Tracking via Wi-Fi), and retailers doing it argue they're only doing what e-commerce sites have been doing for ages. Indeed, when customers are notified of these practices, it can seem creepy. Some companies are even developing technology to track shoppers' eye movements.
Retailers need to be discreet or get shoppers to opt-in to data capture via apps and the like.
Based on shoppers' reactions to Nordstrom's signage, however, perhaps ignorance is bliss. Retailers need to either be stealthy about their tracking or be "up-front" about it -- getting shoppers to opt-in to certain types of data capture via, say, branded mobile apps, loyalty integrations (e.g. Passbook) and the like.