The Today Show had a story this morning on companies tracking consumers through their cellphones.  This isn’t new technology, but maybe people who are not studying Integrated Marketing Communications haven’t really heard about it.

Most consumers have learned how companies track your online habits it isn’t just a coincidence those beautiful red pumps you were looking at yesterday have shown up again on the side of your search engine.  Some consumers may understand that using a loyalty card at the grocery store is the reason they have received coupons for some of the same products they tend to buy or might be interested in.  However, many don’t realize that just walking around with their smartphones can hand information to marketers.

One of the most important pieces of emerging media is tracking consumers.  Mobile has been a somewhat an out of reach tool because the mobile industry has not yet allowed access to users cookies, like they are able to do on desktops.   Although mobile advertising has not yet become as personalized as advertising in Minority Report , that does not mean mobile has not been providing information.

There has been talk for years of enabling locations to send you deals on your favorite stores.  The idea is you’ll be walking by Starbucks and suddenly receive a coupon for the shop.  It is already happening when you download specific apps, such as Placecast.  However, you must have the app the information isn’t just sent to you on it’s own.  Expedia has recently used consumers wi-fi connection to track people who have searched for information on their desktop and then targeted them with mobile advertising.  The technology was able to re-target 38% of the desktop visitors on mobile devices, or about 54 million users.

Research firm Borrel Associates projects that location based mobile spending will hit $4 billion in 2015, up from $34 million in 2009.  Retailers and advertisers say the idea is so lucrative, revenue could reach over $30 billion dollars, because it can provide data on how many customers are passing by our stores compared to how many customers are actually coming in.  They feel that not only does it help business but information gained can be used to help create a better shopping experience.

Location based companies insist that they are being protective of consumers information and are not accessing any personal information such as photos, phone numbers, etc.  Consumer behavior is one of the most important pieces of information to retailers so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they will use any information available.

Do you feel better about being tracked if you are aware of it, like Nordstrom has done or would you rather remain blissfully unaware?  Or will you just be turning off your wi-fi and location settings to avoid it all together?

It puts this Rockwell & Michael Jackson song in my head.


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