Shopping centre design

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04.The future: In-mall tracking


Just as online retailers analyse information about shopping habits, some centres now track and analyse shopper foot traffic to find the hot and cold spots in the centre. Centre managers use this information to optimise floor plans, choose tenants and tweak marketing campaigns.

Shoppers' movements are tracked anonymously through mobile devices. Any smart device using Wi-Fi constantly sends out short pings searching for the Wi-Fi networks around it. These pings send out unique identifiers which can be tracked closely to get an accurate picture of a shopper’s path. 

One tracking company, Inhouse Insights, told CHOICE it operates this technology in shopping centres in Australia, but couldn’t say which ones. While Westfield has said it doesn't currently track customers, it does have the Wi-Fi infrastructure necessary to do this at three of its centres. And its privacy policy permits it: “Where devices are able to connect to, or are identifiable by, in-centre infrastructure, [Westfield] may collect data including usage, location and type of device, from those devices.” 

A Westfield spokesperson told CHOICE that in terms of what the future holds, “there are obviously a great deal of possibilities in using this technology in a retail environment”. Anyone wanting to avoid being tracked should turn their Wi-Fi off.

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