Kroger's Geolocation Glitch: That Local Store Really Isn't Very Local

At the Web site for $85 billion grocer Kroger, the site makes its best guess for the customer's location. But this week it identified a New Jersey customer as being in Missouri and located an Oregon visitor in Texas—off by more than 1,000 miles each time.

Was that a storm-related glitch? We're still waiting for an answer from Kroger, and we know that location feature has worked fine for at least some shoppers in the past. But considering how critical geolocation is in merged-channel retail (where's the closest store? What's on sale right now?) and the fact that IP addresses can often be tied to other CRM data, this may be a good reminder of how tricky outsourcing location services can get. Even if your datacenter is safely out of harm's way, an outside location provider can still be inside a disaster zone and may need its own third-party help—and end up scattering your E-Commerce credibility all over the map. So many other things can impact location accuracy: A VPN can throw it off, and an ISP's own disaster plans can alter where others think your customers are. Then again, it's not especially onerous for customers to fix their location, as long as the site makes that at an easy fix.