Retailers are tracking where you shop ? and where you sleep

Retailers are finding all kinds of uses for location data from customers’ phones.

Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, Texas, used the information to determine that a lot of shoppers owned pets. So it installed water fountains, babysitting stations and “Santa Paws” photo ops for furry friends. The time customers spent in the mall rose by 40%, according to CBRE Group.

A shopping center in Chicago found it was drawing customers from Asian neighborhoods, so it decided to fill a vacancy with a high-end Asian specialty grocer.

Dunkin’ Brands Group, which opened 278 new doughnut shops in the US last year, employed phone data to make sure the new stores wouldn’t siphon customers from existing locations.

Retailers are following the trail of electronic bread crumbs left by millions of customers. And it’s helping them at a time when the industry is suffering.

They’re buying mobile-phone data that can track where and for how long people shop, eat, see movies — and where they go before and after. It allows them to determine personal details that paint a picture of who consumers are. That helps them decide what kinds of shops to open and how to advertise.

The information is transforming the business. And it’s raising privacy concerns.

The idea of being tracked by businesses makes some people uneasy. Every company interviewed for this story said it chooses not to use information that could identify individuals. But for the most part they’re on an honor system because rules governing data remain relatively lax.

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“Historically, we’ve only been able to look at theoretical behaviors of people,” said Alan McKeon, chief executive officer of Alexander Babbage, which packages and sells location data. “Now we can look at where we’re actually drawing from, and we discovered that the trade areas look nothing like we used to think they did.”

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“We don’t have any information about who owns the device, so the way that we contextualize the information is we look at where the phone sleeps at night,” McKeon said.

Location data isn’t the only thing being tracked. There’s also psychographic data, which includes a person’s behavior and spending habits, and social-media chatter.

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Privacy concerns are creeping up. As the market has become more competitive, some providers have started to cut corners, said Laura Schewel, CEO of StreetLight Data. She said her firm, which studies travel patterns to help improve urban planning, lost a potential client to a competitor because it refused to sell “raw trips,” or trips by individuals.

StreetLight only sells data about groups of people. That way, if it were ever compromised, personal details would be protected.

“We don’t want to use technology in a way that erodes trust,” said Brixmor’s Taylor. “As a shopping-center owner, you want to bring in vibrant uses that generate lots of sales, lots of traffic and allow you to grow rents over time.”

Published at Sun, 28 Apr 2019 13:43:28 +0000
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