1-800-Flowers Fingerprints Its Mobile Shoppers

1-800-Flowers (NASDAQ:FLWS) is experimenting with mobile device fingerprinting to track customers who move between platforms, according to Mobile Commerce Daily.

Device fingerprinting (not to be confused with the use of physical fingerprints) involves collecting all the technical details that browsers reveal, such as IP address, operating system, browser version and plug-ins, and matching them up with those of previous customers. Even relatively small sets of browser data can identify returning choppers with better than 95 percent accuracy.

"We do use fingerprinting technology that can track when someone starts to buy flowers on a mobile device," 1-800-Flowers VP Will Ferguson told a panel at the eTail East 2013 conference in Philadelphia. "It's something we're uber focused to figure out. I don't think anyone has a completely comprehensive strategy." The flower-delivery company also uses other tracking techniques, he said.

But 1-800-Flowers is also waiting to see whether Facebook and Google begin to offer online retailers analysis of user data.

Most mobile retailers would prefer to use cookies, which are familiar to both customers and retailer developers. But on mobile, cookies are harder to use, especially on Apple's iPhone and iPad. Many customers have also developed the habit of regularly clearing cookies, which wipes out their tracking value.

On the other hand, alternative techniques such as fingerprinting come with their own challenges. Because fingerprinting doesn't deposit a cookie on the customer's mobile device, there's nothing for the customer to clear. But fingerprinting depends on matching the characteristics of the mobile device that the browser reports. If a customer adds fonts or browser plug-ins, or the browser or operating system is upgraded or the IP address changes, for example, the ability to accurately fingerprint a customer can drop dramatically.

For more:

- See this Mobile Commerce Daily story

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