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Luxury Retail: Big Data is Watching

The gap between the physical & digital retail experience continues to narrow, as retailers look to mobile tracking & facial recognition software to better understand brick-and-mortar consumers.

The average Briton now has 26 online accounts, covering everything from banking to utility bills to social networks to registration with online retailers. 25 to 34-year-olds sign up to an average of 40 accounts. That is a lot of data for marketers, and rich data that in most cases, is not available to retailers selling their goods in a physical store.

In the information age, consumers are subscribing in droves to websites that require information regarding age, sex, geographical location and even credit card details. I.P. addresses provide online retailers and search engines with rich data as to what is being searched, how long they spend on site and what behaviours they exhibit when searching or shopping.

Then of course there are social tools. Pinterest literally tells marketers what trends and specific products are resonating well with consumers. Facebook collects not only the demographics of consumers, but their likes, psychographics and details regarding their peer group. Twitter doesn’t necessarily tell you what is happening in the world, but it will tell marketers the Top 10 most important things happening at any given time within its community.



It has become accepted that personal data is the price we pay online for the ability to quickly compare pricing, arrange convenient delivery and benefit from limited-time discounts. We inscribe our email addresses and social profiles to receive direct alerts, personalised offers and customised content.

Yet when retailers try and collect similar data from consumers in a physical retail environment, they become ‘unnerved’. “We did hear some complaints,” explained Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for Nordstrom, to the New York Times.

In a bid to better understand its customers – how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors – the department store tested new technology last fall that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. The retailer ended the experiment in May in part because of consumer protests.

Nordstrom’s experiment used video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in various parts of the store and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

Sophie Doran

Every day, thousands of leading luxury professionals from over 150 countries log on to Luxury Society, a private online business network designed to connect, inform and inspire. Members are able to forge valuable relationships, keep abreast of the industry's latest developments and discover innovative strategies and career opportunities, while maintaining the privacy and discretion that they dema...(Read More)

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