Web analytics in the real world

(Gmail messed up the original post. Fixed manually.)

Over the break a news story bubbled up about Euclid's retail analytics product. These kinds of tools are pretty damn exciting, and scary too.

The premise is this: track individuals as they move through a retail store using the unique MAC address their smartphone's wireless gives out. Euclid explains that by tracking signal levels, they can triangulate the individual's location within the store. Visitors don't need to have their WiFi actually connected to the store's network, just have it switched on.

Another company doing this is Helsinki-based RapidBlue, who illustrate it with this diagram:
This is pretty amazing stuff and brings the kind of analytics and optimization we regularly do online into the retail environment. Conversion rates, dwell times, split tests, the whole lot.

How many individuals walked past your store? How many then went in? Then how many bought?

Thinking about this further, you could get even better at it:
  • Directional antennae to isolate specific areas of the store
  • Highly directional antennae pointed at the checkouts to record sales
  • Match sales using credit card number or loyalty cards, suddenly you've matched the MAC address to a CRM identifier
  • Give visitors an app with some kind of discount and you can automatically match MAC to CRM identifier
  • Free in-store WiFi and you can see what sites they're looking at as they browse through the store
I can think of some further ways retailers might track people beyond smartphone MACs:
  • Long-distance reads of RFID devices (public transport cards, contactless credit cards, security passes)
  • Partner with mobile telcos to bring mobile coverage into the store, in exchange for sharing anonymized identity information
  • Bluetooth MACs