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Supermarket operators may soon have a way to monitor how and where customers shop their stores, using aggregated data from shoppers' own smartphones.
The Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) and the National Grocers Association (NGA) have tested the concept in two supermarkets and gathered information -- all of it non-personalized -- that could assist retailers in enhancing customers' shopping. Future potential of the system, with the buy-in of the customers themselves, is for retailers to use this data to guide shoppers to in-store only item discounts and specials.
"Knowing how customers actually move around a store, and having insight into where they spend their time versus just passing through, are two key benefits of this system that will help retailers improve product merchandising, store layout and their customers shopping experience," says Schuyler Hawkins, VP of research engineering for CART.
The study, which was conducted with support from Birdzi Inc., a provider of an in-store analytics and mobile engagement platform, also shows that the smartphone data can help fill out shopper profiles, such as whether the customer is new to the store or a repeat visitor. Such data would also enable retailers to gear up service levels for when repeat shoppers -- typically the most desirable -- are in the store.
The principals behind the study, CART, NGA and Birdzi, all emphasize that the smartphone data being collected protects the shoppers' anonymity. "In today's environment, protecting shopper privacy is of paramount importance," said Shekar Raman, CEO of Birdzi. "The smartphone solution achieves this by passively detecting the unique Wi-Fi network address of the device. Nowhere do we have access to who the shoppers are or any of their personal information."
The study, "Discovering Shopper Behavior through New In-Store Metrics," is available online.
The National Grocers Association represents the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry.