Not Just Online: 'Physical Cookie' Tracks Real-Life Shoppers

Makers aim to save brick-and-mortar stores
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2015 7:13 AM CST

Tired of store ads aimed at just anyone? Wish you could be tracked at the mall the way you're tracked online? Well, you're in luck: "Physical Cookies" are now a thing. The pocket-sized gadgets determine which stores shoppers are walking into, allowing electronic signs to offer targeted ads, Mashable reports. Why would a customer agree to carry one around while shopping? Because those targeted ads offer them shopping deals. The devices are the product of a collaboration between a realty investor and an advertising agency, and according to the makers, they're effective. The property investor, Sponda, says that in a trial involving 14,000 people, those carrying Physical Cookies stayed in stores 21.7% longer than those without them.

Sponda also says its messages sent 14.5% of customers from a mall's ground floor to its less-busy second floor. The goal, according to a promotional video, is to prevent the much-heralded death of brick-and-mortar stores. "If e-stores are winning because of their efficient use of data, why not take their best practices and use them in the real world?" the video asks. Sponda says that no personal information is needed to use Physical Cookies, and though the technology is currently in keychain form, it can be installed anywhere. Nor does it involve the "spam" the makers say similar technology like Apple's iBeacon pushes on customers. The creators are working on bringing the system to countries all over the world, including the US, Fast Company reports. (Meanwhile, reported "supercookies" on Verizon phones are raising privacy concerns.)

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