In-Store Location Tracking: A Brave New World for the Retail Sector

meImagine going to a grocery store and instead of choosing the items you want and asking the staff for help or going to the checkout to pay, you get personalized information sent right to your phone and pay for everything automatically when you check out. Thanks to the use of location tracking in the store, this future is drawing near. Let’s take a look at what a typical retail experience might look like in a few years and which companies you should pay attention to.

Types of store location tracking

Tracking technology is developing every day, but these are some of the most relevant today.


geofences” involves communicating directly with customers within a certain geographic area, such as a store facility. This is achieved using GPS signals and Bluetooth radio waves, which organizations can now easily obtain from smartphones.

Customers just need to log into the relevant app and give their consent for that app to take their data. The app then sends Bluetooth signals when it’s near “beacons” placed around the store (for example, in the dairy aisle), in addition to GPS data.

There are multiple uses. On the one hand, customers can access useful data on where to find certain products instead of having to ask the staff, among other queries. Meanwhile, retailers can collect data on consumer behavior, send push notifications to customers based on their activity, and even share the information with their partners. This can be used to increase income.


As if it wasn’t futuristic enough for retailers to know exactly where a customer is in a store, stores can also add sensors. 3D optical sensors, which can be placed on the premise to provide a 3D bird’s eye view of up to 1,000 square feet all around you. Therefore, retailers collect valuable data on the precise journey a customer takes in a store.

A more affordable alternative is break beam sensors, which detect movement and send out a beam of light (which humans can’t see), allowing them to track who has entered or exited a store. This doesn’t provide as sophisticated data, but it’s anonymous and can be useful for tracking simple metrics like how many people visit a store in a day.

Token-based analytics

An alternative to tracking people in a store is to track their carts. In this case, electronic devices known as tokens are spaces in shopping carts, which transmit data about where a customer is going. Again, this provides more anonymity while increasing insight into consumer behavior, although the data will not be as rich and may exclude some people.

leading companies

At first glance, it may seem that this technology is futuristic, but there are already many examples of its implementation. The most advanced example is Amazon (AMZN). The e-commerce giant launched Amazon Fresh (formerly Amazon Go) a few years ago and has worked to create a digitized and streamlined experience. It now has some stores that offer a “just get outservice, which means customers can come and go without even going to the checkout. This is made possible by sensors and trackers, which track what customers put in their basket and then charge for it through your Amazon account.

Amazon is also selling technology to other retailers.

But it’s far from the only retailer to venture into the world of in-store location training. Walmart (WMT) did a test using beacon technology to track customer movements and send them push notifications and discounts. nisa and target (TGT) have also tested the technology, so interested investors should keep an eye on all these retailers.

Will in-store location tracking catch on?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. To know if it is a good investment opportunity, it is necessary to know its effectiveness as a sales and marketing technique.

On the one hand, it can give customers a better experience by reducing typical roadblocks (like queues or asking retail workers for directions), making brick-and-mortar stores more of a rival to e-commerce. If the benefits to customers are clear enough, the trend is likely to grow and retailers implementing the technology stand to benefit.

The benefits for retailers are also crystal clear. As data is collected, they can modify their stores in ways that encourage customers to spend as much as possible. For example, they may find that customers spend more when they place the snack aisle next to the alcohol aisle.

However, the convenience of location tracking for customers may be outweighed by consumer privacy concerns, which could damage a retailer’s reputation and therefore revenue. There are also practical concerns: the technology is expensive, and tools like geofencing may need a way to differentiate between employees and customers.

The older brother is watching

Technology is here for a whole new kind of grocery shopping experience, and many of the biggest names in gaming are racing to capitalize on the potential of these tools. It could be retail’s saving grace, but investors may want to wait to see how customers feel about Amazon’s Just Walk Out stores taking their data before going all-in on innovations.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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