Retailers are tracking you in hundreds of ways; here are three

Retailers are tracking you in hundreds of ways; here are three

Summary: Version 4.0 of RetailNext's in-store analytics platform includes gender demographics, employee detection and full-floor heat maps.


Fun fact: today's brick-and-mortar retailers are tracking your progress through their stores with heat maps.

Retailers have a lot more than that at their disposal, in truth, thanks to software companies such as RetailNext.

This morning, the company updated its in-store analytics platform, adding gender demographics, employee detection and the aforementioned full-floor heat maps to give retail execs a better sense of how you're shopping.

It's not just a matter of customer intelligence, either — the San Diego, Calif.-based company pitches its platform as a way to increase sales and reduce theft, too.

Some of the tech is startling. "Gender detection" can determine just that, making you wonder what the rules are for such a thing. "Employee detection" does so through the use of Wi-Fi-based identification tags that employees carry around in their pockets.

And those heat maps? They give a far more granular view of which areas of the store are more- and less-frequently trafficked. (Which is better than analyzing the scuffs on the floor.)

The insights can all be viewed on a mobile device, too.

So the next time you're walking through a store, don't just smile — dance. You're on candid camera, hundreds of times over.

Topics: Start-Ups, E-Commerce

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • And we worry about nsa and meta records, what about the private sector?

    There was a time that the provider would talk to their customer instead of tracking them and analyzing there every action.
    • I wouldn't worry too much.

      The private sector is there to make money off you. They use heat maps to reorganize their products and direct you to where you'll be buying things. By being able to get better demographics from these maps, they can better target their products.

      The NSA isn't really there to profit off you though...
      • Sales arn't my problem.

        Maybe I should said my problem more. It's not the tracking for sales (family friendly) that bothers me, It's that same information (from the internet) that is collected and sold behind our backs to banks, employers, insuracnce companies, housing enties, that all can be used against you, phone numbers that are shared for telephone marketers that you can't get rid of. Who's keeping this personal information safe so my id doesn't get jacked. We live in a county and time that 40%ish of large employers won't hire you if you don't have a frakbo0k account. This is a joke, and all anybody cares about is meta data (used for national securiety only, I hope).
      • I'd worry big time if I were you!

        The private sector is there to make money off of you yes, but they also run the country. That's scary. Who do you think runs NSA - follow the money.
        • Follow the money, nothing new there, what a world.

          Yeah didn't mean to start a government/private sector war. The fact is I don't fully trust the government either but at least there is judicial (rubber stamp) over sight, and meta data doesn’t affect my daily life like this other stuff does.
    • Congratulations. Your response was PRECISELY

      the reason this article was written. See? Government spying isn't so bad, businesses spy even MORE and they are EVIL while your government is GOOD.
  • The private sector is not...

    forbidden by the constitution to search without a warrant. One is an annoyance, the other is sedition. Big difference.
    Tony Burzio
    • Tony Burzio

  • Whatever Happened To Shopping Privacy?

    Whatever happened to shopping privacy where there is no pimply faced kid pestering me about a product I am not even interested in trying or buying? I don't mind being greeted upon coming into the store, I don't mind being asked if I need assistance or have a question on product.

    But to get pestered by these people with their marketing/sales plans is just plain annoying.

    If I do need help, I'll ask. Wait patiently if the store is busy. Get in and get out and be on my way.
  • Shopping Habits and the RFID chip

    Retailers have been doing this for year. My wife purchased a purse a few years back and I discovered that it had a hidden RFID chip. Not the one you would normally remove with the sales tag.
    I found that the chip is use to track where you stop and also to build a data about your purchases when you use a credit or debit card.
    I don't know if the item is still on the web but, do some research on Levi's jeans and the RFID patch they put beneath the leather patch. It's quite a story.
  • Tell us something useful

    So, what the article didn't tell us was somehting useful, like how to guard against this. I picture something like in the movie "Minority Report" where they track what you last bought, share it retailer-to-retailer. so they can cross market ("would you like some Tide to clean the pants you just bought at the Gap?").

    There must be some way to block or scramble the biometrics.

    • Just put some

      jell insoles in the freezer for an hour and then slip them into your shoes before you walk into the store.
    • I heard

      ...that you can just wrap yourself in tin foil.

      Head to toe.
  • Just one more to add to my hosts file

    People need to get up to speed and do their research on blocking them. Simply add them to your hosts file. Google "block ad networks hosts file" or something similar. There are so many lists out there that will make your life happy again. No more ads on YouTube or anywhere. Also use collusion plug-in for your browser so you see what's being called. I will be shocked if this comment actually gets posted though.
    • Correction

      It is .net, not .com but they probably have many domains and IP's so you need to do a little research.
    • Re: I will be shocked

      I will not. Stupid comments are all the value in ZDNET. This is how the site gets more comments, more clicks and the authors more pay.

      Keep them coming.
      • More comments

        Do not equal more pay. For the record!
  • They can "track" me as much as they want....

    BUT whatever I purchase will be within what I already planned - I consciously refrain from whimsical or impulse purchases, so the only thing they might improve for me will be to make a product easier to find. That said, current "retail philosophy" seems to heavily favor impulse buying by often shifting product location(s). When I encounter that I generally take up the time of an "associate" by asking where the target of my search is NOW, and also ask them to take me to it. That way it dilutes the "productivity" that the retailer thinks they will get from their associate, and I hope sends a message that "whenever we change things around we get lost of questions asking "where is it now?"."
    Until retailers get a more realistic philosophy of helping a customs find what they want / need, and not counting on impulses, we are doomed to lower productivity in that sector.
    • @Willnot

      That associate you are asking is there to tell you where your desired item is and put it in your hands - that is the most productive thing most of them do. You may not buy the impulse items today, but you will have to walk past them. Unless you close your eyes you will see them. And seeing it will plant the idea of needing it on a future trip.

      Retail store design has to balance between letting you find what you want and exposing you to as much merchandise as possible. That's why milk and eggs are generally as far from the front door as possible in a grocery store. They are two of the fastest moving grocery items, so they are located to make you pass as much of the store as possible to get them. Sure, you can grab milk at a convenience store and pay double, or you can face the marketing gauntlet. And for every person who actually makes it out without purchasing anything they were not originally looking for, there are plenty that see something else to buy along the way.