Punch Line: Start-ups are pitching software to retailers that, with the use of in-store Wi-fi, will be able to track shoppers’ path and movements through the store. Retailers would also get information about which websites consumers are visiting while at different places in store – which would help explain which products consumers may be testing in-store, but buying online. Manufacturers will also be interested for the ability to directly target consumers with digital coupons or ads as they walk through the store. Shopper privacy is the one area that hasn’t been “thought through” yet.
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Excerpted from WSJ, “New Wi-fi Pitch: Tracker”
Companies that develop Wi-Fi networks have a new pitch for retailers and marketers: Use the technology to keep tabs on customers, just as Amazon.com Inc. tracks online shoppers … Venues like stores, malls and airports are installing Wi-Fi networks to please smartphone-toting shoppers, who use them to get faster Internet access and avoid cellular-data charges. Wi-Fi lets the network operator keep tabs on what users are doing—from where they’re standing to what websites they’re viewing. That lets retailers learn in what aisle shoppers are most likely to point their iPhone’s Web browser to Amazon.com. Mall owners have a new way to judge which storefronts attract the most foot traffic. And owners of Wi-Fi networks can turn their antennas into virtual billboards, charging a premium for ads sent to users’ phones in prime locations.
Other companies are developing technology known as “heat mapping,” which allows organizations with big Wi-Fi networks to identify customer locations and traffic patterns. It works by triangulating phone signals received by different Wi-Fi bases.
A start-up … goes even further. It offers software that will let retailers track which websites a shopper visits when using a store’s Wi-Fi network and then overlay that information with data showing where the shopper is in the store. The resulting “heat maps” could show which products are most vulnerable to being tried out in the store but ultimately bought for less online.
Retailers that find shoppers are navigating to a particular e-commerce website could buy additional advertising on that website. Meanwhile, a department store that learns many of its customers log on to Amazon.com while in the electronics department could move an additional store employee to that area. “We’re trying to understand not only physically where they’re going within the store but also where they’re going virtually within that shopping experience.”
Edit by BJP
Thanks to GEA for feeding the lead