Shopper-tracking a growing trend

January 23rd, 2014

How much privacy do you expect when shopping for a winter coat at your local outlet store? How about when you're browsing the shops at the nearest indoor mall? Well, you can't expect much. New technology is making it ever easier for retailers to spy on the products you buy and the path you take through a store or mall. A new article by the Wall Street Journal explores exactly how sophisticated retailers are getting with regards to tracking your shopping habits.


Retailers today are relying more than ever on small gadgets, often hidden in the busiest areas of a shop or mall, that track shoppers' cellphones. Other devices monitor the activities of consumers as they shop, providing vital information to retailers about where shoppers are spending the majority of their time and the length of time they're spending in line.


The Wall Street Journal says that this shopping technology is far from rare. The story cites information from The Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank, saying that about 1,000 retailers have equipped their stores with sensors that monitor the activities of shoppers. The reason for this snooping? Retailers hope they'll learn enough about their customers' shopping habits to gain an edge over their competition.

Does privacy matter?

This tracking might help retailers. But shoppers aren't always happy with it. The Journal story cited complaints made on social-media sites from Nordstrom shoppers who weren't happy that they were being spied on. A Nordstrom spokesperson said that the experiment was only a test. The manufacturers of tracking tech recommend that retailers post information telling shoppers they are being tracked.