Did you know that the last time you went shopping at a brick and mortar Belk, Cabelas, or Michael Kors, mall merchants might have been tracking your every move? Mall merchants and stand-alone retailers are taking advantage of advances in technology to track your movement as you move about in their stores. This simply adds to the customer information database that retailers build. If you shop online, online merchants like belk.com might already have a substantial amount of your personal information.
You’ve Got A Tail
Imagine shopping at your favorite store in the mall during the holidays only to be tracked as you search for all of those great deals that the store advertised. The tracking software lays out your path as you look at a gorgeous Micheal Kors Purse. It continues monitoring you as you move to J C Penny, Belk, and Macy’s. It knows when you stop to look at Ralph Lauren Polo Red. Then you tailed as you walk over to the Mac Store.
How Stores Track You
Let’s say you’re out shopping for a Canon PowerShot SX-500 Camera in a store’s electronic department. The store’s customer tracking system detects your cell phones location in electronics and uses that information to send you text alerts about related photography merchandise and store specials on other electronics. Some retailers give you an option to sign up for the alerts.
The Worse Part You Help Them Do It
Retailers may be tracking you as you move about in stores but you could be helping them do it. Retailers are tracking shoppers by using signals from shoppers cellphones. So not only are merchants spying on you, they use your cellphone to do it. Apparently they can do this without your knowledge and they aren’t required to tell you that they’re doing it.
The Merchants Side of the Story
Merchants like Target, Macy’s, Kohls, Costco, and many others, could be tracking your movement through their stores without your knowledge. They say they use the technology to alert customers to specials and deals happening in their stores in real time. That may be good news for those that like to shop until they drop but others may see it as possible way to invade their privacy. According to merchants that track shoppers, they only capture signals that your cell phones sends out and use them to plot your location from display to display in stores. Then they use that information to send you messages about other merchandise in the store that you might be interested in based on your movement history.
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Is Your Personal Information Safe?
But recent national and local news stories about cell phone spying are enough to make the average person leery about their cell phone being used to track their movements. The obvious question is, if retailers can track your movement by your cell phone, what else are they doing through your cell phone? For example, the signals that cell phones send out contain the cell phone number and that allows merchants to send you text messages. Is it possible that those texts contain Trojan Horses that mine other information from your cell phone? When you think about all of the information stored on cell phones, you see how dangerous this can be. Customers arent the only ones asking questions. Members of congress have also started looking into this practice.
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Shopkick Shopper Tracking & Reward App
Some retailers are using apps to track you in some locations of stores like Best Buy, Target, and Macys. One such service is called Shopkick. The Shopkick app is a free iTunes download. Shoppers that use Shopkick, by scanning barcodes on items like the Crock-Pot Hook Up 2 or a Dyson Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, they get ‘kickbucks’ rewards that they can redeem for merchandise or discounts. Since its an app, you have to activate tracking by turning on your phones GPS when you shop stores that offer these services.
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Shop Under the Radar
An alternative to being tracked in stores is to shop online where you can find items like this North Face Osito Women’s Jacket on Amazon (shown above). More and more shoppers are saving time by shopping online where they also get free shipping to their homes or offices.
Stop Being Tracked While Shopping
Stores that use tracking apps give you the option of being tracked or not in their stores. To stop being tracked in those stores is as easy as not using the tracking app. But in other stores you may have to turn off your cell phone. But that defeats the purpose of having a cell phone. Most people that have cell phones want to be able to be able to get their phone calls and text messages at any time. So shoppers have to weigh the cost of not being tracked verses not getting phone calls and text messages. Which one would you choose?
Big Brother Conspiracy
For some, tracking shoppers is just another instance of Big Brother watching you. Theres legitimate concern about the safety of shoppers personal information being accessed on their cell phones. But retailers are trying to reassure passengers that their information is safe. Some merchants are also giving shoppers a choice in whether to be tracked or not. That seems to be the model that will mostly likely be embraced by shoppers.