Some retailers tracking shoppers' movements, habits - WNCN: News, Weather

Some retailers tracking shoppers' movements, habits

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A survey by Accenture reveals shoppers plan on spending more this year and that the majority will take a part of "showrooming." A survey by Accenture reveals shoppers plan on spending more this year and that the majority will take a part of "showrooming."
CARY, N.C. -

The holiday shopping experience may seem the same for most consumers, but certain retail outlets are using technology to track your movements and habits while inside their store.

It's not just security cameras retailers use to watch shoppers, but the smartphone in the shopper's hand.

"We all have these iPhones or Android devices. The fact of the matter is they emit radio frequency signals. Every phone has a unique address," said SAS Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Davis.

A new trend called "showrooming" is driving retailers to track shoppers. Showrooming is where shoppers see an item in the store but look for a better price online or possibly at another retailer.

"Sixty-three percent of shoppers will go through the showrooming experience this year," Davis said.

In comparison, "webrooming" is seeing an item online and then purchasing it in a retail outlet.

The Cary software company was involved with the software that allows retailers to track and analyze shoppers' movements and habits.

Shoppers are tracked anonymously if they walk into a store with their smartphone on, but if a shopper logs into the retailer's Wi-Fi, that's a different story. The retailer can track your exact movements using that Wi-Fi connection.

"They are tracking you via Wi-Fi and they might ask you to sign in," Davis said. "They might offer you some sort of discount if you sign in. Once they know who you are, then they can tie you in to other channels via a catalog that you may have purchased from in the past or an online experience."

Davis said the tracking can be stopped by simply turning your smartphone off when you walk into a store.

Some retailers, such as Nordstrom, ended their tracking efforts after posting a sign explaining its policy, Davis said.

"They had a great backlash from that from a data privacy perspective. A lot of people might have thought that was a bit creepy," he said.

But retailers use tracking to benefit the consumer as well. A retailer can send offers and coupons to shoppers while still in the store.

Shoppers like Jessica Whaley, of Raleigh, like the idea of getting deals in the middle of shopping.

"They know what you've purchased before, so you get coupons for it that say, 'Oh, I saw you were looking at this jacket. These are on sale too,'" Whaley said.

Not everyone likes the idea of being tracked by retailers, like shopper Patricia Guin.

"That makes me a little nervous. I don't like information being tracked and my buying habits being tracked," Guin said.

Whaley believes it is up to the consumer to avoid being tracked by retailers.

"If you don't want to, then don't connect to the Wi-Fi in the store or opt out of the emails or coupons or whatever you want. I think it's your choice," Whaley said.

Davis said tracking can be beneficial for the consumer as long as retailers keep the customer in mind first.

"Tracking sounds like a stalking sort of thing. The reality is that tracking can be a very good thing for the consumer," Davis said. "If it means we can get tailored discounts while we're in the store, that's a good thing. I think people will go for that."

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