January 16, 2014
Smartphone users may be giving out more information than they know.
A report in the Globe and Mail says 200 retailers in downtown Toronto, Ontario are tracking customers via wi-fi hotspots in participating businesses.
The stores are working with startup Turnstyle Solutions, a consumer analytics company that tracks Smartphones’ addresses when users connect to wi-fi.
While it may seem invasive to track unaware Smartphone users, Turnstyle’s website says it provides the service for “brick and mortar” businesses. In other words, Turnstyle tracks consumers shopping in the real world, just as websites track online traffic.
Its data, says the company, is completely anonymous and based on things like age and locations visited.
One restaurant owner interviewed said he was able to identify a market for workout clothing by gathering data on his customers and learning that more than 250 of them visited a gym within one month.
As a result, Fan Zhang, the owner of restaurant Happy Child, launched a line of workout shirts donning his logo.
Another restaurant owner said he hired a DJ to play ’80s music because he learned the majority of his regular customers were over 30.
Merchants are able to access the data collected by logging onto the dashboard on Turnstyle’s website.
Privacy is becoming an increasingly controversial topic as consumers are constantly tracked on and offline – their information used to curate ads displayed on the web or as a marketing tool to identify trends.
Devon Wright, Turnstyle’s CEO, says Smartphone users shouldn’t be surprised that retailers are utilizing tools to collect data.
“I think it’s naive to imagine that this information isn’t the sort of thing that isn’t being collected by the guy standing at the door,” he says.
Megan Abraham is a staff writer for SiteProNews.