In an email exchange after the conference, Mr. Trepp emphasized that the company was focused on the privacy and security of customer data. He said that “most of what we’ve sold in the past is related to loss prevention and mitigating organized retail crime,” meaning the technology has been used to identify shoplifters and known criminals.
“However,” Mr. Trepp said, “we see our business shifting toward providing solutions for improving the customer experience and believe that opt-in solutions like these will become the largest part of our business in the future. We are working with several large retailers on this today.”
The challenge of gathering more information from stores — which lack the reams of customer data collected by retailers online — was further highlighted in a presentation from Orbital Insight, a company that uses satellite imagery for a variety of analysis, including counting cars in parking lots to help gauge traffic to retail chains.
James Crawford, the company’s founder and chief executive, said that within the last year, the company had added geolocation data from cellphones to its offerings. While the data is anonymous, a unique number is associated with each phone so the company can study traffic patterns within malls or other “trade areas,” he said. Mr. Crawford said that while retailers knew the foot traffic in their own stores, they weren’t typically aware of what was happening in front of their stores or elsewhere in a mall or community.
Orbital Insight can gather geolocation data from 10 to 20 percent of phones in any mall, he said, with pings every 15 minutes on average. The company said in an email that it gathered information from vendors that draw data from “a combination of safety, social, family and weather apps,” and that it worked only with those that required consent for location services.
While many conversations during the week centered on data — one retailer even mentioned the term “offline cookie” to refer to in-person browsing information — retailers are also trying other tactics to drum up business at their stores.