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The Evolution of Tracking Technology in Retail


Source: sensalytics GmbH

Tracking technology has come a long way in recent decades, offering a wide range of possibilities for analyzing customer behavior and creating personalized shopping experiences. In this article, we take a look at the history of tracking and venture into the future.


The beginnings of tracking

The history of tracking can be traced back to the 1970s, when barcode technologies were first introduced. This innovation allowed companies to track products and manage inventory efficiently for the first time. In retail tracking's early days, simple people counters at store entrances and exits were standard, but they have since become outdated due to inaccuracy. 


The online tracking era

With the advent of the Internet in the 1990s, tracking began to take on a new dimension. With the boom in e-commerce and the proliferation of online stores, tracking became critical to providing personalized offers to customers. Companies began using cookies to track users' online behavior and provide them with personalized recommendations and advertising. This technology enabled companies to better understand shopping behavior and provide more tailored offers. Since then, customer tracking has become a standard for e-commerce stores and has continued to improve. And what about brick-and-mortar retail?


Tracking progress in brick-and-mortar retail

Even in brick-and-mortar retail, simple people counters at entrances and exits are no longer sufficient, as they provide only a very inaccurate picture of the actual frequencies and processes within a shop or department store. In the mid-2010s, the first attempts to track and analyze visitors using Wi-Fi signals, GPS, and tracking cameras were made, much to the chagrin of privacy advocates and the reputation of the retail analytics industry. Consumers were against facial recognition tracking and rejected it - and rightly so. So other methods had to be found to analyze what was happening in stores to optimize assortment, space and customer experience.


This is where in-store analytics tools, such as those offered by sensalytics, come into play. Visitors can be tracked and analyzed anonymously and in real time using high-precision overhead sensors. This provides retailers with a basis for strategic and operational process optimization in terms of customer satisfaction.


Predictive Analytics and the Future of Tracking

Advances in tracking technology will continue to revolutionize the shopping experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play an increasingly important role by analyzing the data collected and helping companies make accurate predictions about customer behavior. This is known as predictive analytics. It uses visitor data and real-time analytics as the basis for direct recommendations for action to improve on-site service and the customer experience.


The bottom line: Tracking technology over time

Tracking technology has undergone an impressive evolution over the years and will continue to transform the retail experience. From the early days of simple people counters to predictive analytics, tracking technology has helped retailers better understand their customers and provide them with personalized offers. With the advent of AI and machine learning, the future of tracking will be even more exciting as companies are able to make increasingly accurate predictions about customer behavior. As tracking technology continues to advance, it is important that privacy and transparency are maintained to maintain consumer trust and ensure a balanced use of these technologies.

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