As George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 famously read, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” When written in 1949, the British author predicted omnipresent surveillance, and while in 2016 things are not quite at that stage, it is true that we are subject to tracking from mobile devices (you’ve heard about parents tracking their kids via Apple’s ‘Find my iPhone’ app, right?) and even our work places.
Yet is it a bad thing? For retailers it certainly isn’t. Unless you live in a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it is pretty certain that your phone will be fitted with WiFi capabilities. In order for a retailer to find how long a customer spends inside a store or even gather insights as personal as age and gender, in-store equipment will simply pick up your WiFi card, learn your device’s unique ID number and use it to keep tabs on tracking you.
This gives offline companies the power to get incredibly specific data about how their customers behave, significantly advancing the age-old study of behavioural tracking. Discreet surveillance through WiFi tracking allows businesses to closely track their customer’s movements within their stores, and the amount of time they spend in different areas. They can then correlate these findings with sales data to ascertain how well different areas of their stores are performing.
And while this may not be common knowledge, would it really bother customers that much? Probably not. Many shoppers are happy to download apps that act as online shops, provide coupons, plus other perks from their favourite retailers. Once these apps know the shoppers’ preferences and likes based on age, gender, and other personal data, they help personalise the shopping experience, which in turn makes the customer feel more valued and makes them more likely to stay loyal to the brand.
Some shoppers view this technology as a way of restoring balance back to them, and saving individual consumers from being inundated with advertisements for items they have no interest in. For these shoppers, the perks outweigh the concerns about how they are being monitored.
Tracking and improving the customers’ experience is not restricted solely to retail, either.
Many businesses both small and large are fitting their vehicle fleets with tracking devices to monitor how their employees are using their vehicles. Not only is this proven to improve efficiency on behalf of employees – results from a 2015 study by UPS showed that employer time efficiency had improved by up to 30 percent, and the number of late deliveries had also significantly dropped – it can also reduce fuel waste, plus lower the rate of wear-and-tear on their vehicles.
The savings made by less-aggressive driving can be re-directed to rewarding employees for safer driving and increased efficiency behind the wheel.
There are also the safety benefits, too. Advanced-level vehicle trackers are able to monitor for how long a driver has been on the road for, and will cut the engine if it has been for over the legal limit. Similarly, drivers are able to hit a panic button installed to the system in the event of an emergency.
So sure, while Big Brother may be here in 2016, if you’re a retailer or other type of business, it might not be such a bad thing after all.
ExtremeTech, 11 June 2015, Researchers power surveillance cam with WiFi signal.
Ruptela, 22 February, 2016, Transportation management system.
The future of commerce, 27 February, 2015, Big Data’s big impact: Personalized shopping experiences.