Malls may use tech to track shoppers' habits

Malls may use tech to track shoppers' habits
Alerts for deals from the Tring 313 app received on a Samsung smartphone. This is currently being tested at the mall, 313@somerset's manager Lend Lease said at a media briefing on Aug 12, 2014.

You could soon be getting personalised phone alerts based on your shopping patterns in stores or malls for deals that could interest you.

Such tracking is being planned and tested by several malls and stores, using location-based technology that tracks shoppers' movements.

But while shoppers welcome the idea of getting deals, the thought of being watched so closely may cause some concern about privacy breaches.

Property developer Lend Lease said yesterday at a media conference that itplans to use a Bluetooth technology from Singapore firm Sprooki to send targeted alerts to shoppers using an updated version of its 313@somerset shopping app, Tring 313.

The personalised marketing could be based on a shopper's profile and how often he or she visits a store.

Consumers would find the alerts to be more relevant to them, said 313@somerset's general manager Cheryl Goh. She could not say when tracking tests would start.

AsiaMalls Management - which manages shopping centres like Liang Court and Tampines 1 - also said it is "reviewing possible partnerships with telcos and other IT vendors to explore how and what data to collect".

This will help it understand changing trends so it can customise and plan relevant promotions and mall tenant mix, AsiaMalls said.

StarHub and Wi-Fi provider Y5Zone Singapore confirmed that they are doing trials with malls and retailers to use wireless technologies that can offer insight on shopper behaviour.

Mall developers and tech firms said shopper privacy is a priority. Lend Lease said it would be upfront in asking consumers if they wanted to be tracked, when they download or update the Tring app once the tracking feature is ready.

M1 and StarHub both said their services for analysing shopper behaviour through wireless technology use anonymised consumer data. Local start-up Bimar, whose customers include malls and retail chain stores, said its tracking technology detects only unique phone signals, not individuals, to estimate shopper traffic, so personal details are not collected.

Consumers are more likely to agree to being tracked if they can get something in return, such as discount vouchers, said Associate Professor Archan Misra from the Singapore Management University's School of Information Systems.

Despite the carrots, some consumers like electronics engineer Christopher Koh, 37, are wary.

"Even if my data is properly handled by the mall and safeguarded, there could be an intentional or unintentional leak of my data through people who have access to it," he said.

kennyc@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 13 in The Straits Times.

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