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Survey: Consumers Creeped Out by Data Tracking

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) raised an important question last month when it charged consumer-tracking start-up Nomi Technologies with failing to let shoppers know their in-store moves were being monitored: At what point does data-gathering become stalking? And how do consumers feel about Big Brother watching them shop?

According to a survey of 1,016 U.S. consumers conducted last month by omnichannel personalization provider RichRelevance, facial-recognition software crosses the line from clever into creepy: 73 percent of respondents are weirded out by targeted promotions based on age and gender, while 75 percent don’t like when it identifies their spending habits as soon as they set foot in a store.

Magic mirrors that make product suggestions based on items brought into the fitting room? Also creepy, said 55 percent of shoppers surveyed. And 62 percent of consumers think it’s strange when their smartphone signals a salesperson to prepare a fitting room before they’ve even asked.

With that being said, some consumers seem happy to trade privacy for personalization. Forty-four percent consider it “cool” when they’re alerted to deals and product suggestions when they walk into a store, while 76 percent like that they can scan a product using their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations. Interactive maps that show exactly where items are located and the quickest route to get to them are appreciated by 69 percent of time-crunched consumers.

“Shoppers want digital personalization when they are ready to engage,” said Diane Kegley, chief marketing officer of RichRelevance, in a press release. “They may not be ready for personalized messages the moment they walk in the door or even when they hit the dressing room, but our survey suggests they welcome relevant information and promotions when they are making a purchase decision.”

Kegley noted that if retailers create a balanced value exchange by focusing on in-store capabilities that drive convenience by making sure the right products and content are always available to shoppers, customer-tracking can potentially boost business.

“Retailers have a huge opportunity to leverage their biggest asset, the store, to gain an edge when it comes to customer experience,” she said.

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