Daily Dose of iQ: Tracking Customers via In-Store Wi-Fi Networks?

Jun 20, 2012 — Allan Pulga

Imagine being able to track what your walk-in customers are looking up on their phones as they browse through your store. Previously, obtaining this type of data required a branded e-commerce app connected to NFC/GPS/geo-fencing/location-based technology (and a separate process of tracking the data that comes in), but new developments are making this type of "customer monitoring" possible over local Wi-Fi.

According to Anton Troianovski of the Wall Street Journal (June 18), companies like Boingo Wireless, Aruba Networks, and Nearbuy System are exploring ways to connect with shoppers' phones once they access the in-store Wi-Fi network.

"Wi-Fi technology (allows) the network operator keep tabs on what users are doing—from where they're standing to what websites they're viewing," writes Troianovski. "That lets retailers learn in what aisle shoppers are most likely to point their iPhone's web browser to Amazon.com. Mall owners have a new way to judge which storefronts attract the most foot traffic. And owners of Wi-Fi networks can turn their antennas into virtual billboards, charging a premium for ads sent to users' phones in prime locations."

There are of course privacy issues that would need to be addressed before any of this so-called tracking could take place (presumably through a pop-up opt-in message upon joining the Wi-Fi network), but the value-added marketing and data farming possibilities are vast (see the above graphic).

In-store Wi-Fi would allow retailers to:

  • Obtain real-time data on where shoppers spend their time in-store, how often they visit, and which websites they access on their smartphones.
  • Keep customers in-store by offering free high-speed Internet access.
  • Push mobile coupons to shoppers based on what aisles and sections they're in.
  • Track when they're most at risk of losing a customer to online competitors; dispatch a salesperson to offer added assistance at those moments of need.

This is very interesting stuff, both for the retailer and the customer. But again, privacy concerns are paramount. Stay tuned.

Topics: Privacy, Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, Business Intelligence, Retail Marketing

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