Tracking Customers

Do brick and mortar retailers know what their customers want and need? Since in-store customer service is all about face-to-face interaction, many would believe this to be true. While the store owner’s goal is to get to know each and every customer with the hope of gaining loyalty, sometimes the shopping rush shortens those personal interactions. So what happens to consumers that come in just to browse, never saying a word and leaving without a purchase; what are they thinking and feeling?

Retailers Invest in Real-time Research

The truth is online retailers are the ones who have better access to customer data, including how long a shopper lingers on one category or product page, what items receive the most clicks, and how each shopper came to access the online store. Analysis of this data then helps the online retailer decide which products to increase inventory on, what marketing channels have been successful, what items to start marking down, and more. However, with advanced biometric technology, brick and mortar merchants will no longer have to rely solely on their sales numbers at the end of each quarter, working on an immediate in-store marketing plan based on real-time research.

While some may perceive the approach of using hidden cameras as an intrusion of privacy, Bloomberg.com explains, “Since the 1970s, consumer behaviorists such as Paco Underhill have followed shoppers around stores and documented their behavior. By the 1980s, Underhill’s firm, Envirosell was using hidden cameras to observe shopper habits.” Retailers nowadays don’t have to hide cameras, as many customers expect to see them in stores to monitor shoplifting. If retailers use the cameras to track how people move around, how long they stand in front of displays, and which products they pick up, it is an added bonus and profitable data for the store owner.

Other technology perhaps not as familiar to consumers is facial recognition software. Bloomberg.com notes, “The software doesn’t identify a person, but it would give retailers a better handle on customer demographics at specific stores and help them gear promotions to age and gender.” For instance, the data collected from such software has begun to refute conventional wisdom, such as the notion that retailers often put high-margin merchandise near the store entrance, believing shoppers would more than likely take a look. Many do not.

Another technology providing retailers knowledge about their browsing costumer base are heat maps. Bloomberg.com explains, “The data is presented in two ways: a ‘heat map’ that assigns colors to stores depending on traffic, and an ‘affinity map’ that allows retailers to click on a store and determine the probability of a shopper who went there, visiting other stores in the mall.” While these maps are often applied to larger shopping venues such as malls and outlets, they could potentially be useful for in-store data research at smaller brick and mortars. The resulting data could help with product placement throughout the store.

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