Jul 20 2013

Smartphones Give Retailers Customer Behavior Data

A significant number of major retail stores gather personal  information and shopping behavior patterns from the smartphones of customers. Retailers use the information about customers’ moods and movements to determine displays, product areas and more.  The New York Times reports that retailers 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. All sorts of retailers — including national chains, like Family Dollar, Cabela’s and Mothercare, a British company, and specialty stores like Benetton and Warby Parker — are testing these technologies and using them to decide on matters like changing store layouts and offering customized coupons.” Nordstrom’s announced that it has terminated wifi data mining of its customers.

Few shoppers are aware that they are revealing as much about themselves to brick and mortar stores as to online shopping sites. Removing the smartphone battery would prevent exposing personal information in a suspected data mining environment but the most popular smartphones have embedded batteries. Many smartphone owners keep their devices set on the automatic wifi setting, the gateway that allows retailers to gather customer information. Interestingly, simpler, older cellphones, without wifi capability, reveal nothing to retailers.

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