With the holiday shopping season winding down, it’s the busiest time of the year for data collecting companies that compile information on the purchases you make. Are you aware of the extent that your purchases are being tracked? Knowing about data collection may make you want to buy all of your presents with cash.

The expansion of consumer data collection is presenting new opportunities in the fields of analytics and marketing. Many of us are familiar with cookies collected as we browse the web, these cookies are used by Google Ads to propagate ads with our specific taste in mind on websites that we visit. The next step with online consumer data collecting is seen with IBM tracking. This tracks via consumer’s smart devices as they shop and publishes transactions in real time.

Retailers such as Target are now offering Wi-Fi in their stores and promoting their own mobile app which offers shoppers deals relevant to where they are located in the store. This uses technology called an Internal Positioning System (IPS) which maps the insides of buildings. Google intends to use this technology with Glass, its augmented reality product, and Apple is already using this tech with iBeacon.

Launched earlier in the year, iBeacon uses devices smaller than a gumball, and it uses Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE) to send push notifications to other iOS devices. Apple will soon utilize this technology in Apple stores around the world in order to give consumers detailed information about the products that surround them. Even Major League Baseball stadiums will be using iBeacons during the 2014 season.

Consumer data collection is nothing new. For years retail stores have pushed loyalty cards, asked people for their zip code, and had customers register their items for warranties so they can send you mailers. Major retailers such as Best Buy, Macy’s, and JCPenney have now teamed up with the Shopkick mobile app to take this idea further. When using this app inside of a store, it rewards shoppers with in-store discounts and gives fun incentives like a free song download if you try on an outfit.

Stealth tools are also being used more prevalently to track consumers. Major retailers are monitoring cell phone signals and using heat sensors to follow consumers as they shop. This is call “shopperception” and it uses the same motion-detection technology as the Xbox Kinect to monitor whether someone picked up a product, put it back on the shelf, or actually made the purchase, and it can monitor how long you spent in a certain area of the store. In addition to analyzing customer behavior in real time, it can also trigger digital monitors nearby to activate and advertise to customers.

Startups such as Drawbridge have the ability to track a person’s interest in products and services across their entire digital universe using mobile devices. An even more ambitious data collection initiative is the pan-European SMARCOS (Smart Composite Human-Computer Interfaces). SMARCOS makes smart ecosystems that create a “healthy living service.” This operates across multiple platforms acting as a real-time behavior monitoring service that gives users information, such as encouragement to exercise, reminders to take medication, educational tools, and more.

With all of these new tools in consumer data collection, the potential reach for new analytics and marketing is almost endless. IPS will become the norm within 5 years, free Wi-Fi will continue to expand globally, and data storage will become cheaper. How do you think your business can benefit from these developments? Share with us your thoughts in the comments!

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