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Geo-fencing. iBeacon. Oh my! Don’t stalk me now!

shutterstock_49555894As brands and retailers turn into technology companies enabling commerce, one of the main concerns for consumers is that of privacy invasion. With geo-fencing, iBeacons, and other NFC-enabled technologies, brick-and-mortar stores are able to send push notifications to shoppers when they are in the vicinity of or inside an establishment. However, a recent survey by OpinionLabs says that eight out of 10 consumers don’t want to be tracked in stores.

This is problematic for businesses that are employing new technologies to reach consumers. If you send a push notification to a consumer that doesn’t want to be tracked, not only are you intruding on their privacy, but you are turning them off your business altogether. This is quite the paradox considering the direction that commerce is moving in right now. Commerce is becoming pervasive, enabling unlimited touch points at which businesses can reach consumers. How does a business deal with this paradox and grow their business at the same time?

There are two crucial elements at play here – consent and transparency. Everyone who uses the Internet today knows that there is a lot of personal information floating around about them. As uncomfortable as that thought might be, Internet usage is indispensable. In such a scenario, businesses need to make an effort to earn peoples’ trust.

Have people opt in to your in-store tracking program instead of just tracking everyone who is in the vicinity of your store. Even though the above-mentioned survey says that only 34% of consumers were open to an opt-in, it is only a matter of time before the tide turns on that. We are going through a time of flux right now. With the amount of data that exists about people, there is bound to be hesitation and anxiety.

However, commerce is changing. We are entering an era of pervasive commerce, where every interaction in the physical world or online is an opportunity to inform, educate, and sell products and services. People don’t want to be intruded upon. At the same time, they are not opposed to the idea of getting relevant coupons and discounts.

The other vital aspect here is that of transparency. Businesses need to tell people exactly what their data is going to be used for. Not just in long documents of terms and conditions that nobody reads, but in comprehensible and friendly terms. Businesses should emphasize that their interests extend beyond just the bottom line, and that they actually want to build long-term relationships by providing exceptional service. And be genuine about it.

Personalization is going to define the new age of commerce. A combination of consumer intelligence and product intelligence is going to enable a world where the right product information is delivered to the right customer, at the right time, at the right place, and through the right channel. In such a scenario, invasion of privacy will not be an issue anymore as people will only receive highly relevant and hyper-personalized product offers. For now, maybe businesses need to push back a little and iron out the kinks in the system.

There are already some apps that are letting consumers opt in to a superior shopping experience. For instance, shopkick is an app that allows consumers to tag and save items to buy later. Then through the shopBeacon, they are actually marrying at-home browsing with in-store shopping. So, if a consumer is near an item that they’ve tagged, they get a notification through iBeacon technology that lets them know where the item is in that store.

Enhanced shopping experiences that delight consumers are the future of commerce. Businesses just need to make sure they are not crossing the line between creepy and cool.

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