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Creepy vs. Cool: How Location Cuts Both Ways for Consumers

Dozens of surveys have uncovered fundamental consumer ambivalence about use of location. People say they want more relevant and personalized content or ads. But they also get “creeped out” if things get too “Minority Report.”

A new consumer survey from RichRelevance exposes this ambivalence. The company surveyed roughly 1,000 US adults in May and released its findings in a report called “Creepy or Cool.”

Do you use your mobile phone to help you shop while you are in a retail store?

RichRelevance Creepy or Cool

The survey first establishes how many people use their phones in stores. The single largest group said “sometimes,” although the majority (55%) used their phones at least that often. The data didn’t change that much by age, except there were more “never” respondents among users over 60.

The next several questions involved indoor location and data mining. Here’s what respondents thought was “cool” and what they considered “creepy”:

Facial recognition technology identifies you as a high value shopper and relays this information to a salesperson

Cool — 13%
Creepy — 67%
Not sure — 20%

A salesperson greets you by name on the store floor because your mobile phone or app signals your presence

Cool — 18%
Creepy — 64%
Not sure — 17%

A salesperson makes more helpful suggestions because they can see what you’ve previously browsed and bought on their site and in the store

Cool — 32%
Creepy — 45%
Not sure — 23%

Digital screens in each dressing room shows products that complement the item that you are trying on

Cool — 41%
Creepy — 42%
Not sure — 17%

Your location in the store triggers personalized product information, content, recommendations & discounts to pop up on your mobile device as you walk through the aisles

Cool — 40%
Creepy — 37%
Not sure — 23%

You can scan a product on your mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items you might like

Cool — 79%
Creepy — 8%
Not sure — 13%

When you check out, your print or email receipt includes product recommendations selected just for you

Cool — 50%
Creepy — 20%
Not sure — 30%

Soon after you leave the store, you receive a digital coupon for a product you looked at but didn’t purchase

Cool — 52%
Creepy — 26%
Not sure — 22%

Most of the people responding to the survey probably have not actually experienced any of these things. So they’re responding to the idea of these scenarios. If they were in fact exposed in actual retail environments they might change some of their responses.

I read the responses above to suggest that where there’s a discount or the user is in control of the experience there’s greater acceptance. In other situations that are “involuntary” (e.g., facial recognition) or feature too much personal data, it starts to feel like surveillance.

The ambivalence in these responses illustrates the challenges for marketers and technology companies — delivering compelling and experiences to shoppers without freaking them out by making them too personal.

These are the kinds of issues we’ll be exploring in September at the Place Conference in Chicago on 9/21. Register today while early bird rates are still in effect.

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