Mobile For Shopper Trends? No, But For CRM Depth, Yes

The scenario is tempting. Retailers can have so much richer information about shoppers when they leverage mobile app data, including knowing when any one of those shoppers comes into one of your stores, roughly where they go and anything they scan. Although that's all true, it's also data that is about only a small percentage of your shoppers, and it's about your most loyal shoppers. Would extrapolation of that information yield any accurate trends about the rest of your potential shopper population?

Placed, a mobile geolocation vendor specializing in retail, found some intriguing stats when it was reviewing some of its retail findings. It found that the number of Barnes & Noble shoppers who were older than 55 increased 3.4 percent (for the month being probed) and that the number of customers earning fewer than $50,000/year decreased 2.2 percent. It noticed that Kohl's said its shoppers who earned more than $100,000 increased by 1.8 percent. And Target saw the largest increase in physical visits in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the U.S.

Clearly, without many months (and perhaps years) of trend data, those stats are meaningless. But it does illustrate the kinds of insights that are possible when overlaying mobile geolocation tracking with CRM and demographic data.

Given the unusually supportive nature of the shoppers who are willing to download and use the store's mobile app (who else but your most engaged shoppers would bother?), is there any benefit to projecting from those figures? Most likely not, so you couldn't assume that the number of higher- or lower-income shoppers was changing in any meaningful way.

That said, if you look at these figures solely from a CRM perspective, solely as a way to learn a lot more about specific shoppers (who just happen to be your most dedicated shoppers), that starts to make a lot of sense.

The attractiveness of this concept is that it takes us to the third tier of CRM. In the physical loyalty card days, a retailer had no visibility into anything until the shopper made a purchase. With mobile barcode scanning for price and demos, the retailer could then see what the customer was thinking about buying and, even better, what they looked at and decided to not buy. And exactly what they were doing when they decided to abandon the purchase.

With geolocation and a dedicated app, you can now see when shoppers come into the store even if they don't scan—nor buy—a thing. How long did they stay? Where were they standing? If they come in again, should I send them a 10 percent off coupon good for today only?

What third-party firms sell is the ability to know where else your customers go, although how specific they get is murky. Remember that when they are willing to tell you about when your shoppers are visiting your rivals, they'll also likely tell your rivals when people visit you.