In my post about beacons I asked about privacy and what it means to consumers. Well, yesterday I found out. Philz Coffee, a Bay Area coffee chain, landed right in the middle of a privacy debacle when it was reported that the company uses Euclid to track customer data using a cell phone’s Wi-Fi. People were up in arms on Twitter and Philz cut the cord with Euclid. You can read more about it here and here.
Physical in-store tracking isn’t new technology, there are numerous companies tackling this using various methods (see the map of companies here – scroll down to ‘Physical Store Analytics’). Some companies like Euclid use your phone’s Wi-Fi while other companies use bluetooth low energy (beacons), video from in-store cameras, sound waves, etc. These technologies can be incredibly useful by giving retailers data such as indoor mapping, in-store hot spots, and operational analysis to help optimize efficiency and user experience.
On the flip side, providing adequate disclosures and peace-of-mind to customers is key for any retailer that wants to take advantage of these systems. Opt-out policies help, but in order for this category to be successful customers really need to opt-in on their own. In return, the value proposition to customers is a serendipitous in-store experience and more personalized interactions. There is no doubt that people are more cautious/aware of their privacy, but it will be interesting to see how these technologies evolve with shopper’s perceptions.
Tl;dr: If you want to track your customers, make them opt-in.
Appendix: Companies that are currently participating in the “Future of Privacy Forum” opt-out program: