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Retailers tracking customers using smartphones

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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High street retailers including Marks and Spencer, Dune and Topshop are secretly using customers smartphones to track their movements around their stores, using new technology which picks up the pings emitted by phones as they look for wi-fi networks to join.

According to a report in The Telegraph, major retailers are now installing small white receiver boxes on their ceilings which are continuously gathering data, such as number of customers and movement around the store, which can be used to alter the layout to produce more sales.

Privacy campaigners such as Big Brother Watch are looking to highlight this new technology to shoppers who might be unaware that they are being watched and is calling on retailers to inform consumers of the activity, similar to CCTV warnings.

Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch Renata Samson said: “It’s a huge problem, and most people don’t even know that their own phone is being used to monitor them. Shops will say they are just trying to make the experience more personalised and better, but why aren’t there signs warning people that it is happening, like for CCTV?”

Retailers, however, are using the data to analyse shopping behaviour, such as why people are abandoning baskets before reaching the checkout, as well as the times that they are shopping, with Topshop reportedly changing its opening hours at its London Oxford Street store based on its results.

It’s predicted that the wi-fi analytics industry is expected to be worth around 19 billion pounds within five years.

Marks and Spencer