In-store tracking has taken a beating in the mainstream press since it started to make headlines over the last few years. Nordstrom came under fire in 2013 when a Denver news station revealed it was tracking customer movements in store through their cellphones. Privacy advocates howled. During a consumer survey in 2014, more than three out of four respondents declared their opposition to the practice. Yet, it continues, and retailers — and the third-party tech vendors inventing new, cheaper ways to do it — are getting better.

Go With the Flow

The reasons are obvious. In-store monitoring essentially provides retail marketers with similar insights into customer behavior that they can get from their websites, allowing them to act on them to improve customer experience (CX) and, hopefully, sales.

"Much like tracking a website visitor’s behavior flow, beacon technology can provide in-store retailers the ability to map customer visits in department sections. This data can then be integrated into consumer management technology that matches the customer’s in-store path with their purchased SKUs, showing where customers stopped but didn't purchase," explains Tyler Walton, marketing manager at Clutch, which helps top brands develop customers relationships.

Layering their data and analyzing it, Walton continues, allows retailers to change store layouts to optimize CX and create the most convenient shopping experience conducive to purchasing not just shoes — but shoes, pants and shirts (and maybe even a belt and tie). 

Every Step You Take

Walton's seen some recent technological developments in the space, including the ability to layer in data about departmental-based promotions to see how effective they are. And the combo of in-store, in-hand tablets to empower employees with customer data literally in the midst of the path to purchase.

One new technology comes by way of a company called Scanalytics, which produces sensor-rich floor tiles called SoleSensors, which retailers can hide under their carpeting. The tiles track customers' movements down to milliseconds. Retailers lease the tiles, which can run from a few dollars to hundreds apiece. During one recent test case, Scanalytics laid out 200 square feet of tile in two stores for a retailer. So far, they've tracked 56,328 people and more than 350,800 "interactions." Data from these interactions is sent to this retailer in a SaaS model.

"The key is how simply and accurately that information is processed and translated into actions," says Matthew McCoy, co-founder and COO.

Another tech solution comes by way of Prayas Analytics and retailers' security cameras. Instead of turning footsteps into actionable data about customer behavior, this tool transforms images. Prayas Analytics currently offers a subscription-based service to retailers.

"E-commerce has so much information on their customers and this allows them to A/B test their online offering through better data. Brick-and-mortar retailers do not and we want to bring them on the same footing," says co-founder and CEO Yash Kothari.

Imagine the power to know that a certain department really attracts and holds customers. So why not move it to the front of the store where it's easier to find? Or to learn at what rate your customers are abandoning your check-out lines, reshelving goods instead of buying them. What can we test to see how we can keep those folks in line?

Such power might scare some consumers. But others might rejoice at less time wasted shopping for a pair of shoes, pants and shirts (and maybe even a belt and tie).

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  ** RCB **