Do consumers want their smartphones tracked for a more target shopping experience?
As we outline in The End of Anonymity, one of our 10 Trends for 2014, it’s becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked, thanks in part to an array of new technologies. Among these are retail systems from companies like Euclid and Nomi that track the Wi-Fi signals of shoppers’ smartphones, and beacons, the new low-cost transmitters marketed by Apple and others. The opportunities to learn more about customer habits and to push highly targeted messages are compelling—but will it fly with consumers?
Not likely, according to recent research by consumer insight company OpinionLab. Only 23 percent of those polled feel it’s acceptable for retailers to track shoppers’ in-store behavior via smartphone, and as many as 44 percent say they would be less likely to shop at a retailer if they knew they were being tracked. As this chart shows, distrust and fear are major barriers. Around 8 in 10 don’t trust retailers to keep tracking data private and secure, and some two-thirds say it feels like spying unless they explicitly opt in. (At present, many but not all programs are opt-in.)
Most respondents here believe retailers will use the data gathered without delivering enough tangible benefits to the consumer, like discounts or freebies. “People have to experience the utility before they’re comfortable with the privacy trade-off,” notes Bill Ready, CEO of mobile-payments firm Braintree, in Fortune. The challenge will be to provide significant utility and then get highly skeptical consumers to take note.