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In-store tracking technology has recently caught the attention of prominent brands, the media and consumer groups. The technology uses features on people's mobile phones - in particular, WiFi - to learn more about people's shopping habits while in stores. Some marketers are touting its potential to reward customers - for instance, by offering relevant, timely and personalized promotions.

But not all consumers are impressed. Some wonder if the technology crosses the "creepy line," while others are concerned that they have to opt-out if they don't wish to be tracked.

Privacy concerns about this new tech highlight the importance of understanding your customers when launching new marketing or customer insight programs - especially when those initiatives involve customer data. That's where an on-going relationship with a community of customers could help: with customer insights at your fingertips, you can easily identify and address issues that people have before investing money and time into any new marketing technology. Plus, you could also pursue unique data integration solutions that allow for both behavioral tracking and attitudinal perceptions - providing a data hub for better understanding the context and motivations behind customer behaviors.

While brands still have work to do in addressing privacy issues, some brands are already dipping their toes. Here are three prominent brands that are experimenting with in-store tracking to gain consumer insight:

  1. eBay

[eBay Vice President of Innovation and New Ventures Steve] Yankovich's team is working on technology that will take the best of e-commerce and introduce it in the offline world. For example, sensors will record what customers are looking at and touching, and what products they brought in a dressing room. Eventually, a brick-and-mortar store can become a personalized experience, with items that are available in your size and style identified for you, he says.

"It's the kind of personalization we offer online, customizing a homepage based on things you've clicked on in the past," he says. "In a physical store, in an anonymous way, can use sensors that gather information. When you stand in front of piece of glass, we can get an idea of what size you are. In the end, it's about creating a magical way to shop, that's quicker and more successful."

Yankovich says eBay is productizing the technology in its lab, which is set up to mimic a retail store with mirrors, windows and walls. He anticipates elements to be available later this year. - Stephanie Vozza, Fast Company

Tweet this: .@eBay experiments w/ tech that records what customers do offline: Part of @VisionCritical #MRX roundup.

  1. Disney

[Disney's MyMagic+ is] a sweeping reservation and ride planning system that allows for bookings months in advance on a website or smartphone app. Bracelets called MagicBands, which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information, serve as admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards; a tap against a sensor pays for food or trinkets. The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips - which critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things.

That tracking power also is what makes them so important for Disney's $14.1 billion theme park and resort business. Intelligence collected using the bands coupled with what visitors input into the related My Disney Experience app and website - all voluntary - help Disney determine when to add more staff at rides, what restaurants should serve, which souvenirs should be stocked, and how many employees in costume should roam around at any given time. Data about customer preferences could be used to craft e-mails or text messages alerting them to restaurant menu changes or sudden openings for reservations in an expedited queue at Space Mountain or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

The goal is to offer people what Tom Staggs, head of the company's parks and resorts unit, calls "a more immersive, more seamless, and more personal experience" - allowing Disney employees to address a child by name, for example, or wish someone a happy birthday. "The implications for big data and for personalization are extraordinary," says Quinby. "It could radically change interaction between customers and the company." - Christopher Palmeri, BloombergBusinessweek

Tweet this: How tracking tech could help @Disney optimize staffing, restaurant services, etc.: Part of @VisionCritical #MRX roundup.

  1. Google

According to the Wall Street Journal, the tech giant is rolling out a test campaign to track the purchases people make at brick-and-mortar stores after clicking on a Google search ad for a given store or product.

In order to make these determinations, WSJ says Google is partnering with data collection companies like Acxiom and DataLogix, which track what customers buy when they use their loyalty rewards cards or redeem other marketing offers.

By matching this anonymous consumer information from the data providers to web-based tracking cookies, Google can determine how many products were purchased by people who clicked on a given ad and how much more money those people spent than consumers who didn't. - Aaron Taube, Business Insider

Tweet this: In-store tracking technology could help @Google figure out ROI of its ads: Part of @VisionCritical #MRX roundup.

How do you see in-store trackers shaping marketing and customer insight? Do you see more brands experimenting with this technology? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.

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