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infographic: can in-store tracking be risky business to your customers?

in-store-customer-tracking1

Last time you entered a store, did you think about who might be watching you? Or how a retailer could know that you talked to two store associates for a total of three minutes, picked up three different products but purchased none of them?

Marketers are in love with the treasure trove of insights that in-store tracking can provide through the lens of customer experience–how long a customer spends wandering store aisles, lingers in front of a store window, what items are tried on, picked up or put down and other data meant to optimize the customer experience. Just imagine the possibilities of real-time tracking data, not just at the point of experience in a digital world, but tracked in an actual location… brick-and-mortar retailers could push a mobile coupon to consumers examining a product previously viewed, but not bought, on the website. Or collect feedback from customers on product color choice and then ping a consumer upon a repeat visit that they’ve heard their feedback and now the product is available in a host of additional colors. It’s a pretty powerful future to imagine and one I have to admit as a marketer, sounds incredibly appealing. But while marketers are already building campaigns around these technological advances, consumers are rebelling. 80% of them in fact.

In early March, OpinionLab assembled a panel of over 1,000 consumers, consisting of a variety of genders, ages and demographic backgrounds. We wanted to know just what this eclectic group of consumers really thought about the notion of in-store tracking and everything that topic entails. Do consumers believe it’s fair game to use wi-fi signals upon entry and continue tracking through purchase? Is one form of tracking acceptable over another? For example is fitting room tracking a no no but on the other side of the coin, is it perfectly conceivable to track wait time at checkouts? Would they willingly participate in a program of store tracking and if so why? These burning questions and more were at the heart of our study, especially given a current retail climate heavy with stories of data breaches, security concerns and new technologies that allow tracking.

And we’re not just talking secret shoppers anymore. Wi-fi, iBeacons and mobile apps are just some of the initial technologies being used to track store behavior, and consumers aren’t thrilled with the notion that some faceless entity is tracking their movements without their knowledge. In fact, a whopping 44% of consumers are less likely to shop at a retailer if they are being tracked. Think that number changes when you’re asking the same question about a consumer’s favorite retailer? 63% of respondents said they wouldn’t participate in a tracking program even with a trusted brand. The notion of in-store tracking brings up all sorts of pain points with consumers–data security, spying, parental consent concerns and most importantly, what the retailers really will do with all those data points. In fact 6 out of 10 consumers said they believe the retailer will use data to their own benefit, not the consumers.

Our data shows the best way, if tracking occurs at all, is overwhelmingly an opt-in program where consumers sign up to participate in return for discounts or free products. Some forms of tracking do meet consumer approval however, 52% of consumers say it’s ok for a retailer to track checkout counter wait times. This is an area that translates to immediate benefits to a consumer.

It’s not that consumers don’t want a better experience in-store, it’s a simple fact that retailers just haven’t earned the right. There is a lack of evidence that retailers have yet to effectively sell consumers on the tangible benefits of in-store tracking. While there are of course shining examples of brands (Apple anyone?) that have proven that customers do have a stake in building the in-store experience, the majority of the pack hasn’t shown that the link between a great in-store experience and realized benefits is in-store tracking methods. And that’s a major obstacle for brick-and-mortar stores today.

There are as many opinions on this subject as there are technologies being created this very instant to track a shopper’s movements in the store, in fact you’ll see two great opinions on this very subject (with OpinionLab data at the very core) with Fortune’s piece, “Consumers hate in-store tracking but retailers, start-ups and investors love it,” and their follow up article, “Why in-store tracking might not be as bad as it sounds”. It’s a fascinating topic for any marketer and especially since we as marketers are consumers first and foremost. At OpinionLab we’re excited to see how in-store tracking methods evolve over the next twelve months and how VoC will fit into the puzzle, but we’re most interested to hear the opinions of our peers, customers and other consumers.

Weigh in on the issue and if you’d like a closer view of the results from this panel you can view the complete infographic here.

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