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There’s an App for That (and It Probably Knows Where You Are)

There’s an App for That (and It Probably Knows Where You Are)

I recently attended a meeting of the Omaha Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators  where the speaker was Jenni Mitten, marketing director for the Nebraska Crossing Outlets . The topic? How shopping centers target their promotions and attract and keep customers – especially relevant considering my ever-growing holiday shopping list.

Mitten spoke of how the new Nebraska Crossing Outlets were initially marketed, how good tenants were identified and how the marketing team has helped the retailers promote their stores. I was captivated learning about how they integrated social, traditional and new technology into creating events and promotions to drive traffic to the mall (and sales to the retailers). But what really caught me was how they used an app to extract more information and data about shoppers than I ever knew was possible.

I’d never given it much thought when I downloaded an app and it asked if I would allow location services. Sometimes, if it seems reasonable (maps, restaurant locators/reviews, weather), I’ll allow access. But other times I wonder, why exactly does this app need to know where I am?

Now I understand.

In the case of this particular app (NEX Outlets), it can use iBeacons to determine where you are at the mall, how long you stayed in a store and where you were in the store. Sure, that might sound a bit like Big Brother is watching, but it also allows the app to send you notifications of sales and discounts—something you might really appreciate while you are shopping.

The app can also use your location information to provide the stores with data about how their business operates, such as if you waited by the fitting rooms for five minutes but never got within two feet of a checkout counter. This might indicate they need more fitting rooms and, because you didn’t try something on, you decided not to make a purchase. And, if you shopped at one particular store, it was likely you probably also shopped at a certain other store and could instantly send you the latest specials at that store. As I thought more about the possibilities, I was fascinated.

I spent a few hours that night reading up on the purpose of location services, the different types of apps (those that are built into your phone and third-party apps) and what exactly I was revealing about myself on a daily basis. Some apps don’t personally identify you, while others may be keeping track of your shopping history. However, you can usually learn in the terms of service what exactly they are using that information for.

I am now armed with the power of knowledge of how these apps benefit both the stores and possibly my pocketbook. It’s interesting what we can do with technology. And, I must admit, that while I’m shopping this season, I might just be tempted to turn on those locations services (and quickly turn them off again when I drive away.)