Major retailers use technology to track your in-store shopping habits

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 22:21:40-04

More and more retailers are tracking your shopping habits using cutting edge technology with the goal of getting you to spend more. When department store chain Nordstrom told shoppers what they were up to, many were outraged by the invasion of privacy.

Remember the futuristic shopping experience from "Minority Report"? It's not as far-fetched as you think. Retailers are turning to technology that uses video surveillance and tracking signals from your smart phone to figure out how to get you to spend more.

The in-store analytics makes it possible for retailers to understand things like where customers go, where they stop and ultimately how all of that translates to sales at the register.

Upscale department chain Nordstrom recently ended a test program gathering pings from Wi-Fi signals on customer's smart phones as they browsed through the store.

Some were outraged after learning about the in-store surveillance.

"Way over the line," one consumer wrote on Facebook.

Take a look at the video above. The camera in Nordstrom is set up in the ceiling near the entrance.

As people enter, the software pinpoints them and follows them throughout the store. Retailnext, which is one of the companies providing this kind of technology, says the software is so specific, it can tell exactly where inside the store a person is standing and even which direction their head is looking.

They know there is a person and they know what that person is doing, but they can't really marry it back to your personal identity,” Tim Callan, Chief Marketing Officer of RetailNext said.

These heat maps are another tool, the red areas are spots where people stood looking at products for a long time.

Still, shoppers have mixed feelings about being watched by big brother.

“When they're storing data and figuring exactly where you go, it's completely um an invasion of privacy,” said one shopper.

Retailnext said their technology is in more than 5,000 stores worldwide.

Nordstrom says they were testing the program and ended it in May, and they say they didn't store any of the data, nor did they have any way of identifying individuals.