Phone tracking shoppers – getting customer’s onside with new mobile technologies

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Recently I read the ABC’s article about the proposed use of phone-tracking technology in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall. This reminded me of a situation where City of London rejected a UK agency’s use of ‘spy bins’ to track wi-fi signals.

The key reasons for the rejection, and removal, of the tech were –

1) the potential for invading people’s privacy, and

2) the public (and the local government) wasn’t informed prior to deployment.

Overall, this technology may have business benefits (e.g. contextual/”on the spot advertising”) – but would have to be handled carefully as it has a strong potential to be creepy and invasive rather than useful.

Even the less threatening (innocent?) approach that’s proposed for Rundle Mall (i.e. tracking of crowds at events), can have customers concerned about the potential for misuse.

It wouldn’t take much for an overzealous organisation to turn the tracking of crowds into ‘spamming customers with every footstep’.

For this tech to be accepted by the public, it would need to be tolerable – at the very least. The maxim of “do no harm” translates here to “avoid irritation”. Imagine if it got too much! A low effort way to avoid the irritation could be to avoid the mall and shop elsewhere. Where’s the value in that?

Of course, customers could just switch off their mobile’s wi-fi. Or just put up with it. That’s hardly an engaging experience.

Ideally, to minimise the risk of rejection by the public, the customer would need to get something in return – the technology should prove useful to the customer. For example, let’s say that free ‘open access’ wi-fi is provided across Rundle Mall. This offers a potential benefit – which may outweigh the irritation of any pesky ads. Maybe this is ‘sugar-coating the spam’, but at least customer knows that they’re getting something for the cost of the irritation and are likely to remain “opted-in”.

Overall, before diving into a full implementation, it’s a good idea to check the approach for adoption related risks. Prototyping and testing with customers is a good start. Like customer rewards schemes which we’ve written about recently (Helpful or Intrusive, collecting data on your customers, Aug 29) to ensure customers feel like they are getting the better part of the deal, you need to offer them something in return for the rewards you’re banking from their data. We can’t just jump into full use of the technology without full consultation, whether this breaks privacy laws, or whether there is risks (or tolerance) to adoption from the public.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Mulligan
Steve Mulligan is passionate about demonstrating the strategic use of the design process to improve organisation strategy and deliver large scale solutions to market. His career has so far spanned the Banking, Health, Legal, Defence, Public Service, Recruitment and Technology industries. He is a project manager, a strategist and a creative thinker - and in doing so, he can co-develop and drive processes that enable teams, projects, programs and organisations to solve complex challenges and implement customer centric innovations.

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