Will customer tracking help save shopping malls?
With shopping malls not performing like they used to, facility owners are looking to technology to revive shopper interest. But when it comes to re-mapping the mall to make it more attractive to shoppers, some of the technologies they are using might put some customers on edge.
Some mall landlords have been using smartphone monitoring technology to track shopper behavior throughout the malls they own, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some monitor the amount of time customers spend in the mall and in specific stores to determine where one store should be set up in proximity to another. Landlords also base advertising on location data used in conjunction with social media and email information.
While the Journal article doesn’t detail which specific solutions are used for each example of behavior tracking, it does mention one big U.S. mall owner that uses a tool called StepsAway to push discounts and promotions to shoppers’ smartphones. Shoppers in this case do not need to install an app.
The degree to which customers are said to be comfortable with the use of in-store tracking technology seems to vary from study to study. For instance, a 2014 shopper survey indicated that eight out of 10 shoppers did not want retailers tracking their movements. But a 2015 study by MaxMedia indicated that most customers are okay with anonymous in-store tracking. In that study, almost 50 percent of Millennials said they would tolerate tracking by Wi-Fi, but drew the line at being tracked by camera.
In addition to the “creep factor,” there is, as with all data collection endeavors, the potential concern of how the data is being handled and anonymized internally, and the cybersecurity protocols being taken to keep any valuable and personally-identifying data out of the hands of hackers.
There also remains a question of whether this type of data can be used to redesign mall layouts in a way that will result in meaningful gains in store traffic. Factors other than layout, such as store selection, may be overriding any gains in making malls a popular destination again.
- Shopping Malls Are Tracking Your Every Move – The Wall Street Journal
- Shoppers saying no to in-store snooping – RetailWire
- How steep is the creep factor? – RetailWire
- Why does Gen Z like brick-and-mortar stores but not malls? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can malls gain useful insights and become more attractive places to shop using behavior tracking technology? When does tracking shopper behavior go too far in terms of privacy?