Big brother is watching and everybody knows it – at least they found out after the Snowden leaks were presented earlier this summer. The public concern over privacy has made services like Euclid Analytics and RetailNext hot issues in the retail sphere. Retailers want to know as much as they can about customers, and these tracking services are getting increasingly effective at gathering a detailed set of data about consumers: where they walk, what they look at, how they feel. The magic is in the ability to consistently track consumers’ cell phones via wi-fi networks, and read their movements and body language with specialized cameras. The consumer experience can be enhanced by the advanced targeting these services make available, and offers can be made more effective based on the data. Some users will certainly be uncomfortable with the uncanny accuracy of a computer’s read on them, but others are likely to fully embrace the technology, participating in retail programs to enhance their experience, and maybe even get a personalized “hello” next time they enter the store.
Many restaurants use Yelp or Zagat stickers as validations of their quality – displaying reviews on their windows functions as social evidence for customers looking for a dinner. Nordstrom is hoping that they can create an equivalent system for retail commerce via Pinterest. The store is tagging some of its most pinned items with the Pinterest logo in-store. It’s a way of telling customers that people want the product, as well as a way of indexing its digital popularity. The company has posted photos and instagrams of the experiment; so far its only in select stores, but it will be interesting to hear from customers in the near future whether or not they are more likely to purchase a Pinterest-tagged item.