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Big Brother is watching you shop

In Big Brother, World News on December 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm

By Bloomberg

On the Web, every click and jiggle of the mouse helps e-tailers customize sites and maximize the likelihood of a purchase. Brick-and-mortar stores have long wanted to track consumers in a similar fashion, but following atoms is a lot harder than following bits. For the most part, they’ve been forced to rely on consumer surveys, says Herb Sorensen, an adviser at market research firm TNS Retail & Shopper (WPPGY) in London. “The problem with survey research is the consumer can say one thing and do another.”

To get a better understanding of their customers in real time, mall operators are monitoring shoppers’ behavior with devices that track mobile-phone signals, while retailers including Montblanc (CFRUY), T-Mobile (DTEGF), andFamily Dollar Stores (FDO) are finding new uses for old tools such as in-store security cameras. The goal is to divine which variables affect a purchase, then act with Web-like nimbleness to deploy more salespeople, alter displays, or put out red blouses instead of blue. Until recently, “stores have been a black hole,” says Alexei Agratchev, chief executive officer of consultancy RetailNext. “People were convinced something was true and spending tens of millions based on that” without evidence to…

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