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May 14, 2015

Data privacy? Retailers know these 10 ‘private’ facts about you

Did you know that retailers can see your browsing history?


We all know that retailers are collecting data about us and that they are using it to improve shops and customer experiences. But what can this data actually tell retailers about you?

CBR has compiled a list to keep you informed of what shops know about you.

1. Where you are shopping

It sounds obvious, but shops are aware of where you are shopping and where you’ve been. The process of Cross Shopping helps to build up an idea of brand loyalty, with a retailer seeing if a certain shopper has visited several of it’s stores.

Euclid analytics track repeat customers, how much time there is between visits, what parts of the store get the most foot-fall and also analyses external factors that may drive people into, or away from, the store.

All of this helps to build up a picture of customer satisfaction, but can also help to build up a pretty good picture of where you are going and when.

2. Your eating habits

Again, obvious I know, but shops know everything about what you eat, the quantities, at what time of day you are buying cake, or the week, month or year. This can build up a pretty detailed picture of your diet and what products are doing well.

Found yourself receiving offers for cakes? Maybe they have realised it’s your birthday or someone else’s who you typically buy birthday related gifts for.

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This can help stores tailor what they offer to customers, appealling to their likes as well as figuring out what times of year to stock certain goods.

It can also be used to influence eating habits – Tesco has in the past considered ideas for making suggestions to customers for how they can eat more healthily.

3. Your age and gender

Many stores are using facial recognition technology to identify these two factors, although it has been stated that the tech is not being used to personally identify shoppers, with the information instead used to build a demographic pictures of who is using the store.

Almax is one company which has created facial recognition technology to be able to analyse shoppers faces to detect age, gender, ethnicity and other characteristics.

This information matters to retailers, so it doesn’t matter if you only pay with cash or have a rewards card, they will still know these details about you.

4. Where you live

They know it all, and you’ve probably handed over this information for some kind of rewards card. Of course, if you haven’t got a rewards card and given them your address then it is a little more difficult to figure out where you live, but not impossible.

Both Waitrose and Asda have admitted to analysing aggregated payment card data from Visa and Mastercard with the help of Beyond Analysis. This gives retail shops anonymised access to all our shopping patterns, which can help to build up location patterns based on frequent use of a card at a particular set of shops in one location.

Similar data has been used in the past by retailers to figure out where to build the next store in order to maximise convenience or see where a competitor has an advantage.

5. You’re delivery date

We’ve all heard the story about Target congratulating the teenage girl about her pregnancy before her parents knew. This knowledge comes from a few different areas of data source – obviously knowing the gender of the customer helps, but also eating habits and not just what you buy, but when you buy certain products.

Retailers have gathered data regarding when expecting mothers buy certain types of foods and products during different stages of pregnancy, thereby enabling them to offer certain vouchers and suggestions throughout the shopper’s pregnancy.

This also means that retailers could quite accurately predict your due date, so congratulations – here’s 10p off some nappies.

6. Web browsing

This one isn’t reserved for just online where tracking cookies can see what sites you’ve come from to get to the store’s site – this can also happen inside shops.

Isn’t it nice that they put on free Wi-Fi throughout the store? Well yes it is, but the data they are getting back in return pays for it. The data they get can be quite a detailed record of what you have been looking at on your mobile browser.

Perhaps in the electrical department they can see you have been browsing a competitors site, only to then not buy what you were looking at, so maybe it is time to review your prices or place a member of staff in that area to push a sale.

7. What device you are using

A number of retailers get this information through analytics partners such as Euclid and Nomi which detect pings from mobile devices that are searching for a WiFi connection.

This can send back information on what device you are using and can help to build customer maps based upon type of phone,location and movement around the store.

While they are not meant to track you outside the store, sometimes this happens as well.

8. It’s in the eyes

Do those mannequins’ eyes look a bit funny to you? Well they might well have Gaze trackers in them.

These little trackers help to detect what brands you are looking at, for how long and your facial expressions. This can help determine if you like the product, what brand you favour and can assist the store with the placement of products on shelves.

But it does feel a little creepy.

9. Did you pick that up?

Thanks to radio frequency identification, stores can see when you’ve picked up an item, which can send signals to a nearby digital sign to feed you targeted ads or details about the product.

This is one of the many features of the smart store, sensors are everywhere collecting data which gets analysed to enable them to be better at selling you things.

10. If you’ve been travelling

This links back to tracking where you’ve been shopping. Basically if you agree to location services to be active and you have adverts, then they are tracking everywhere you have been.

So if the advertisers can see that you have been at an airport for the past three Mondays, then there is a high chance that you are a business traveller.

Advertisers can then target sales at you based on when you are likely to be near a store and certain products that you may want just for your flights.

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