Psst!!! Yes You…They are Watching!



What if you were told that while you shopped, you were being watched not only by store cameras to catch theft, but also for data collection? That somewhere, your actions were being examined and discussed? How would you react to that? Luckily, many of you did not know of this creepy, yet accurate forecasting method until now.

Although tracking customers have been around for many years, security companies have finally broke into the market, advancing the cameras abilities by drawing “heat maps” to assess buying behavior, have better strategic capacity planning,and  being able to guess shoppers’ sex and  age. According to market-research firm IDC, $1.3 billion will be spent on analytics software this year to make sense of the data collected, and potentially increasing forecasting accuracy.

Gordmans, a department chain store that can be found in places like Champaign, Naperville, and Rockford has used cameras as their technology tracking source. In one of their stores, 35 cameras were placed throughout the store and used to track the movement of 29,000 shoppers over a three week span. This footage was then turned into heat maps in order to show which popular departments of the stores consumers gravitated to the most(fashion items) and which departments in the store consumers ignored(home furnishing). It also told them that a large flux of Asian customers frequented their store, which prompted the manager to have Asian salespeople to greet them. The data was also analyzed by using a software from RetailNext where through animation, showed managers how to change the layout of 90 stores to increase sales. These changes helped increase Gordmans’ conversion rate by 3%.

American Apparel has also adopted this ideology by using RetailNext. Stacey Shulman, technology chief of American Apparel, says she craves “the same type of analytics in-store as I can get online.” The software allowed them to tell how many customers came into the store and the time of day. Before using this forecasting method, American Apparel store managers thought they were busiest when sales peaked, when in actuality they were typically off by two hours. By using the existing cameras that are mounted above the doors as you walk in, RetailNext has been able to help American Apparel with capacity. The traffic data collected feeds into the staff scheduling software which allows the store to be able to staff accurately based on how much traffic the camera picks up.

These new innovative software’s touch on many topics we have discussed throughout our course. Both stores have used them as a means to have better forecasting data. It not only gets to track how many purchases, but look at the behaviors and characteristic of those that buy, making it easier to predict their sales. It has also allowed stores to accommodate their capacity needs by using more employees during peaks to create more sales.

As online retailers gain competitive advantage, do you think this is a good idea to boost sales in stores? By gaining more accuracy on their customers, can they win them back?


We Snoop to Conquer

Analytics Software Mines the Store

6 thoughts on “Psst!!! Yes You…They are Watching!

  1. I can see the positive effects of having such forecasting- scheduling, adjusting to consumers needs and making adjustments to certain unsuccessful departments. Nonetheless, I still feel like they are just going to far. Eventually people will get discouraged from someone constantly monitoring their purchases, their moves, and will feel uncomfortable in the store. But, that is just make take on this issue.

  2. I had never thought about the use of cameras/infrared and heat tracking to track movements of customers within stores, and I think it’s very interesting and effective. In a management class I took over the summer, we discussed how stores are now tracking customers through GPS – when a customer walks by a store, they receive a text message alerting them of sales or enticing them to come inside and receive a discount from a code sent via that text message. To answer your question, I think that this use of technology is a huge competitive advantage for stores that may not necessarily offer online shopping because this technology offers more precise and accurate forecasting that will allow managers to assess the needs of their stores.

  3. What an interesting topic. I did not realize stores could track data from camera footage, but it does help with competitive advantage and forecast accuracy. It makes sense to implement these technologies in order to become more productive. However, I feel uncomfortable knowing that there is a camera collecting data of my every move when I visit a store. This might be another of the many implications technology has, just like great data that is useful for companies, it takes away some of the privacy of its customers.

  4. This post made me wonder about that amount of times I have been tracked while shopping. I think this method of tracking is great! I am a quick shopper and dislike spending hours on end at one store. Using the information they gather, stores would be able to place their best items in the “hot” spots. This would make quick shopping more convenient and accessible.

  5. Nice post. As online retailing makes it more difficult for brick and mortar stores to survive, tracking customers seems like a good competitive advantage for brick and mortar stores. It would be to your own personal preference on whether this is an invasion of privacy.

    Your post also mentioned that this tracking analytics is the same as analytics that are on online. In both ways they track consumers, but it almost feels like on the Internet we are more accepting of being tracked. Whereas in real life, there is nothing to hide behind.

    Winning consumers back won’t be easy. But if stores could make their policies as transparent as possible, then consumers would be more likely to shop there.

  6. Interesting post. I had no idea companies like these would go to this extent. I think since stores are competing with online retailers that this will help sales remain constant or even increase. Also, this tactic is great for forecasting and predicting capacity for the store.

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