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Making the case for in-store tracking

Making the case for in-store tracking

Mobile technologies offer tremendous potential to retailers and CPG brands to influence customer behavior in the aisle. However, persuading customers of the benefits of tracking them in-store is clearly a major challenge. An OpinionLab study earlier this year again showed that the vast majority of customers consider in-store tracking unacceptable.

So I was struck by the positive reaction to the recent launch of Facebook Safety Check. This takes potentially sensitive data on location that Facebook already has, and uses it to let friends and family know you're safe in the event of a natural disaster. There's no direct benefit to Facebook, they've just used location data to create value for their users. The result has been widespread praise.

The case for in-store tracking seems largely to come down to providing deals while customers are in an aisle. And certainly, the same study indicated that customers expect to be compensated with cost-saving discounts if they are tracked. However, such discounts need to be genuinely for the benefit of customers, rather than inducements to buy products that they wouldn't otherwise buy — anything less is just seen as benefitting the retailer. And if customers are already receiving discounts based on their purchasing history, deals in return for being tracked in-store offer little extra benefit.

The discussion needs to start from a different place.

Facebook Safety Check was inspired by the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Facebook engineers in Japan saw how people were trying to use Facebook to contact their friends and family, and created a disaster message board to make it easier for them to do so. It came directly from solving a problem for users.

To make a compelling case for in-store tracking, what are the problems for customers that it enables retailers to solve?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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