From Black Friday though to the end of the December, two malls in southern California and Richmond, Va., will be following shoppers by tracking their cell phone signals. When somebody walks out of the Gap, into the Starbucks, out through the Nordstrom and on to the Auntie Annes pretzel stand, the mall will be monitoring.
Creepy? Maybe. But the information is anonymous and won’t be used to target individual shoppers. Instead, it’s part of a quiet information revolution among retailers to figure out how crowds move, where they cluster, and what stores they ignore. Tracking crowds isn’t new. Tracking crowds through their cell phones is.
Paco Underhill, perhaps the world’s foremost expert on the “ergonomic” shopping experience, predicted a future where grocery stores do your errands for you. Whole Foods could create a phone app that pings the customer — “Here’s your shopping list!” — and lets the customer ping the store — “I’d like to drop by at one tomorrow!” — so you could drive up to the window, like at a fast food restaurant or pharmaceutical counter, to “fill” your Whole Foods order.
After “checking in” at the door, you would earn reward points to buy merchandise. As you walk through the store, the app would highlight the products it thinks you’re most likely to buy. Got a coupon? Just tap your phone (provided its embedded with near-field communication chips) against the product label. “When you check out, reward points and coupons will automatically be applied to your purchase,” Jain wrote.
Things should always be like this! Tech enables humans to make better decisions in seeming easy thing called shopping. Marketers can do a better job starting from aggregate data like how traffic flows from one store to next, and eventually turn to tech app to allow individuals shop smart.