Most Consumers Reject In-Store Mobile Tracking — Or Do They?

The large majority of consumers have not had any experience with indoor location or indoor marketing on mobile devices. However there are already more than a dozen surveys asking how consumers feel about having their in-store movements tracked. Having read every single one of these surveys and conducted several myself I can tell you the […]

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The large majority of consumers have not had any experience with indoor location or indoor marketing on mobile devices. However there are already more than a dozen surveys asking how consumers feel about having their in-store movements tracked.

Having read every single one of these surveys and conducted several myself I can tell you the following: consumers are concerned about location tracking. However if the reason behind tracking is legitimate (e.g., Waze, Uber) they’re generally fine with it. More specifically, in a retail environment, most consumers are willing to share personal data (including location) in exchange for rewards and benefits.

Privacy and retail tracking

Source: PunchTab

The different surveys in the market present different results: X percent are concerned about privacy, Y percent are not, and so on. The latest of these comes from PunchTab (n=1,153 US smartphone owners). The company asked smartphone users, “How likely would you be to allow the store to use your mobile phone’s GPS if you received the benefits that you selected above?

As the graphic above illustrates, roughly half of the survey respondents said they weren’t open to tracking, 27 percent would allow it for the right benefits and 23 percent were “indifferent.” It’s not entirely clear what “benefits” were presented to survey respondents.

But a later slide (below) shows a hierarchy of reasons or benefits that might justify in-store tracking and how consumers feel about those ideas. This was the question:

If one of your favorite stores could use your mobile phone’s GPS to see when you’re in or near their store and send you an SMS message with the following content, which would you find desirable? (Please select all that apply.) Stores might also use your phone’s GPS to collect information that could ultimately improve your shopping experience at their store. Which of the following would you consider to be legitimate reasons for stores to use your phone’s GPS? (Please select all that apply.)

The most interesting answer below is “shorten my checkout time.” Beyond the standard coupons and discounts it represents a way to leverage mobile for payments that could truly improve the in-store experience. But that’s another discussion.

Punchtab in store tracking

Source: PunchTab

Retailers, marketers and others may be discouraged by privacy surveys such as the one from PunchTab that argue a majority of consumers are resistant to in-store location or marketing. However because consumers have yet to have real experiences these survey results are mostly hypothetical.

It’s also the case that the way these survey questions are framed makes a big difference. I polled separate samples of 500 Android users through Google Consumer Surveys and found that when you ask about “tracking” without more context or explanation most consumers reject it. But when you explain benefits or frame it favorably the results change dramatically.

Privacy survey in-store tracking

Source: Opus Research July 2014 n=500 US Android owners

Privacy survey in-store tracking

Source: Opus Research July 2014 n=500 US Android owners

I did these polls to show how survey results can be manipulated and impacted on the basis of the way that questions are presented. So until we have some real world consumer experiences with in-store location and marketing we aren’t really going to know what consumers’ true attitudes are.

At this stage we can say with confidence that a percentage will object, some won’t care and the majority in the middle will participate under the right circumstances and with the right assurances.


Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.


About the author

Greg Sterling
Contributor
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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