Privacy Hawks in Tow, Euclid Pushes Ahead With Offline Retail Analytics

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euclid-logo copyAmid congressional queries and rumbles in the press over privacy concerns, Euclid is pushing ahead with its effort to bring Google Analytics to the physical world. The service, which uses wi-fi signals to provide brick-and-mortar retailers with store analytics, has released a major update, adding new metrics, industry benchmarks, and a substantial redesign to its dashboard.

Euclid is one of a number of ventures that uses the data generated when a smartphone engages with a store’s wi-fi router to provide retailers with traffic and engagement analytics comparable to the metrics produced by services like Google Analytics for online retailers. Each interaction yields a small amount of data that includes, among other signals, an anonymous device ID (called a MAC address) and a measure on the strength of signal, which the company can use to identity a particular device (not a person) and its position relative to the store.

Today, the company has added a number of new services aimed at speciality retailers — a new market for the firm, which has primarily focused on larger format sellers and department stores. The features, which range from measuring shopper retention (how many customers are coming back) and optimizing store hours to testing a window display or a marketing campaign, look to package the data in a way that can tie into existing initiatives, adding a quantitative layer to marketing and operations decisions.

In addition to the new metrics, Euclid has also added a set of industry baselines, which aggregate data from across its dataset to provide an average performance for each indicator. The numbers are only available by industry and region today, but the company says it plans to add more precise segmentations as its client base, and dataset, grows.

The retail analytics space has drawn criticism from privacy advocates since May, when Senator Al Franken published a letter to Euclid inquiring about its service. Senator Franken, who authored a bill that would require developers to receive explicit consent from users before sharing geographic data with other parties, criticized the company’s opt-out policy, calling it “troubling” and suggesting that it violated American’s “fundamental right to not be tracked without their consent — especially in the real, ‘offline’ world where they are less likely to expect it.”

Senator Franken’s concerns reflect a broader ambivalence among consumers to an increasingly quantitative local commerce ecosystem, which sits closer to Amazon than Main Street. But it’s a concern that Euclid believes will abate as consumers learn about the technology, and businesses use it to improve customer’s experience when buying goods locally.

“People are reacting and starting a conversation because it’s a new technology; People are inherently afraid of what they do not understand.,” said George Kwon, Euclid’s director of product. “We’re probably only in the first year of conversation and it’s really important to lay it out there and have this conversation. When that happens there will be a big increase in the level of comfort with these services.”

Kwon compares the privacy debate to the early days of online cookie tracking, when privacy advocates slammed the practice as intrusive and an infringement on consumer rights. That debate subsisted somewhat, but the push to create an easier opt-out is still very much alive in the “do not track” debates.

Euclid has managed to quell some privacy concerns by promising anonymity through aggregation — providing clients with aggregated segments of its data without isolating individual devices. The tactic is a mainstay among analytics firms, but presents some limitations as retailers look to use that data to not only understand, but personalize, customer experiences as well. Kwon does not rule it out for the company, but says that any integration with user profiles (like a loyalty program) would have to be done on an opt-in basis.

The success of store analytics firms and the development of the hyperlocal industry, in many ways go hand in hand. Just as cookies analytics services helped validate services online, in-store measurement is critical to the growth of the entire stack of services bringing digital tools to local. For marketing technology firms, filling a gap between metrics on the device and data from the point of sale that has limited its ability to prove ROI. And for commerce plays, the wealth of data these services provide help push businesses toward a critical mass where quantatative models can start taking precedent over qualitative analysis.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.