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Retail Stores Plan Elaborate Ways To Track You 195

Posted by timothy
from the just-ask-at-the-casino-what-works dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Retailers are experimenting with a variety of new ways to track you, so that when you pick up a shirt, you might get a message about the matching shorts. Or pick up golf shoes at a sports store and you see a discount for a new set of clubs. New technologies like magnetic field detection, Bluetooth Low Energy, sonic pulses, and even transmissions from the in-store lights can tell when you enter a store, where you go, and how you shop. Just last year, tracking was only accurate within 100 feet. Starting this year, they can track within a few feet. ByteLight makes the lighting tech, which transmits a unique signal that the camera in your phone can read. The store can then track your location within about 3 feet — and it's already in use at the Museum of Science in Boston."
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Retail Stores Plan Elaborate Ways To Track You

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:20PM (#44403017)

    ...leave Bluetooth turned on? Seems like a pointless way to run your battery down...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:42PM (#44403123)

    Yay, more hype and wank trying to whip up the /. crowd into a frenzy.

    According to TFA (yeah, I read it, suck me) all the things listed here are features of a store-wide network that interfaces with an app on your smartphone. Yes, that's right, you have to manually add an app to your phone for these establishments in order for any of this 'tracking' to work. An app whose primary function is delivering ads and coupons to you.

    Seriously, aren't things already bad enough with the whole NSA thing? Is fear mongering and just plain making shit up really necessary?

    [captcha: congress]

  • Re:How Annoying (Score:4, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @09:12PM (#44403249)

    Based on what little info is on ByteLight's website - wouldn't you, as a customer, have to be running the store's app on your phone for this tracking to work? If so, just don't run the software.

    The other tracking method they listed was wi-fi fingerprinting. Annoying, but not very accurate - and you can completely defeat it just by turning wi-fi off, I assume (something I usually do anyway).

    That said, I'd still complain loudly to the management of any store I shop at if I found they were using the technology.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @10:52PM (#44403681) Journal
    The summary is incorrect. The story is about retailers tracking customers who are running the retailer's app while shopping in the store so they can suggest related items. The article even leads off with a ridiculous photo of someone holding an iPad mini and looking at a listing for the item on the shelf. When was the last time you saw someone walking around a store with an iPad in their hand?

    In theory, if you're downloading the retailer's app and using it in their store on your phone, you are looking for "something extra" from the retailer. What they're talking about here is the app acting as a salesperson, noting where you are in the store and possibly what you might be looking at to suggest items you might want. It's a gimmick, though. The app may know where you are within a few feet, but it doesn't know what item you have in your hand, so it can't properly suggest products based on what you're about to buy while you're still in the store. All it can do is say "I see you're by the polo shirt table... want two of these? We'll give you a coupon for two for $20." This is no more effective than putting a dead tree sign on the table that says "polo shirts: 2 for $20." Dead trees are cheaper, and everyone can see them, resulting in more sales than limiting your promotion to the <1% of customers who are walking through your store running your app and paying attention to it.

    The way to make it somewhat more effective would be to tie it into what safeway is doing, where they keep track of everything you buy with your Safeway card and the highest prices you've historically been willing to pay for those items. Then they offer you a discount based on what they know your threshold is... and they offer the person 10 feet away from you a deeper discount on the same item because they see that she only buys the item when it's below a certain price. That systematic price discrimination is the greater concern, but the article doesn't mention that because the author doesn't get it.

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