Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

Phone Technology Tracks Wandering Shoppers

Why do we wander round a supermarket in a state of bafflement, wondering where the carpet shampoo or the organic salads have been hidden?

Oddly, it is phone technology that guides the apparently arbitrary shelf layout in supermarkets. The way product-to-shelf allocation system may drive us nuts, but what feels like lame planning and arbitrary store layout is actually a highly sophisticated response to the way our minds work when we’re shopping.

Our aisle-wandering habits have been carefully studied over time, and are pretty well understood by the supermarket chains’ ‘footfall experts’. Now mobile phone technology has been coming to their aid. Path Intelligence, a UK-based company working with MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), has introduced a system for tracking shoppers’ in-store movements by their cellphone signals. Our mobile handsets have only to be switched on for our movements to be traced, like mice in a maze.

Phones track an individual’s precise whereabouts in the store by the constant signals they exchange with the cellular networks that carry their calls. If you walk briskly past the household cleaning products, but then pause for a minute in front of Mexican Foods, Path Intelligence will know it, and record the duration of your “dwell time” among the taco shells and the jars of hot salsa.

Apparently whenever that dwell-time rises, sales of the items concerned rises by an even higher percentage, according to a measurable ratio.  Standing and thinking about an item on a shelf increases our likelihood of putting it in the cart and paying for it, it seems.

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Retail