Retailers Could Be Tracking You Using WiFi - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Retailers Could Be Tracking You Using WiFi

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We all know security cameras watch shoppers so they won't steal, but now retailers are using surveillance cameras for a different reason and they are using WiFi to track shoppers as well.

Michael Latta with Coastal Carolina University says "It has changed the way we do business. If you can deliver an offer to them by their smartphone, while they're walking around in the store, you may keep them for a few more minutes and they may buy something else.

There are several different techniques such as watching you on surveillance cameras and tracking your smartphone using WiFi."

He said, "They've evolved from theft prevention to marketing. They're using these cameras sometimes for real time viewing where they watch a consumer move around a store because they want to see what their travel pattern is or they'll be looking for certain types of customers to use them in research to determine what type of customer buys what type of products.

Latta has been studying this type of marketing for years. He said retailers want to know everything about you like what type of car you drive and what items you purchase.

He said, "There are lots of things they can track over time to determine who is their core customer and who should be in their loyalty programs, which ones should get special offers, too."

WiFi tracking is another way retailers are following you.

When you walk into a store, your smartphone or tablet can connect to the wireless system and essentially allow the retailer to know where you are in the store at any point.

Latta commented, "They're always trying to look to see what categories products you buy are in and makes suggestions to you about what you should buy next."

Retailnext is a company that analyzes shopper behavior and it's website lists major chains you shop at everyday using this technology.

Latta explained, "Any of the large chains like Kroger, Walgreens, anything that is widespread across the country, they use this system, especially with such a mobile population it allows them to integrate information from any place in the country on a per customer basis and know exactly what to offer them in Illinois versus South Carolina versus Atlanta, Georgia versus wherever you go.

Latta said he's done research that shows consumers aren't as worried about retail tracking as they are government intrusion.

In fact, if there's a way to save money at the end, most shoppers look forward to the notifications, but some legislators think you should have a say in whether or not you're getting tracked.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken has introduced a bill that would make location data collection opt-in only.

He thinks consumers have a right to privacy and should have to agree to sharing that information.

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