Is interactive Retail a “Stalker” or a “Butler?”

Stalker_or_ButlerI recently read an interesting article in The Atlantic, The Future of Retail Checkout: No Checkout at All?, that raises an interesting point about how consumers will feel as retailers collect more of their digital footprint and use this information for personalized interactions. Will customers feel like they are being “stalked” or will they value the personalized service like they would get from a “butler?”

It is a valid concern. I think the answer really depends on how the retailer uses consumers’ digital data. Successful retailers will use the customer intelligence to “help” the consumer with information that truly enhances their shopping experience. Those retailers that use the information to track consumers for added security or loss prevention will not create retail good will. In a nutshell, it is the difference between customer influence vs. customer intrusion.

Another intriguing topic discussed in the article is the concept of self- or no-checkout. With the continued decline in the cost of electronic ID tags that can be attached to products and the ability to identify customers via a network of sensors in the store, shopping could be revolutionized by technology. Imagine just picking up your products and walking out the door without any physical checkout. Since you and your products are identified as you leave the store, the cost of the products you “purchased” could be billed automatically to your payment method on your profile file with the retailer. Amazing! Wouldn’t that experience feel strange – like you were stealing?

There are unlimited possibilities…

Ken Morris

Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.


1 reply
  1. David Naumann
    David Naumann says:

    This is definitely a hot topic! Here is recent research that indicates in-store tracking is not welcomed by consumers. In fact, 77% of consumers say that they do not see in-store tracking via smartphone as an acceptable way to collect behavioral data. However, shoppers said they would consider opting into a tracking program if they received compelling incentives, especially discounts (61%) and free products (53%).


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