A company called Euclid Analytics uses the Wi-Fi antennas inside stores to see how many people are coming into a store, how long they stay and even which aisles they walk. It does this by noting each smartphone that comes near the store, feeding on every signal ping the phone sends.
Using the information, retailers can tell whether someone walked by the store, whether a customer came in and how long the visit lasted. If it is a big store, with a couple of Wi-Fi antennas, the owner can start to see where in the store someone went.
Euclid is three years old and has about 100 customers, including Nordstrom and Home Depot. It has already tracked about 50 million devices in 4,000 locations.
The big initial use is the so-called bounce rate, or the percentage of people who come into the store who leave without making a purchase. But the technology also helps stores make sure that there is enough sales help or that enough registers are open. By seeing how people move in a store, retailers can also better determine where to place low-profit and high-profit items.
Mr. Smith says Euclid has more data than it gives to customers. It gives its customers only anonymous data in a collected form, so individuals won’t be targeted. Stores using the technology may also put stickers in their windows telling customers they are being monitored and allowing them to opt out
It’s likely, however, that over time Euclid and its partners could add an opt in feature, where people choose to be recognized, the way registered Amazon.com customers are greeted when they come to a site. Then people might be offered, say, free parking for staying 20 minutes in a store, or they could get a discount for visiting three times a month.
While the technology has changed, the practice hasn’t. Retailers have always been obsessed over this kind of information.