Apple Stores Can Now Track Customers’ In-Store Locations

Image credit: WikipediaImage credit: WikipediaApple has flipped the switch on its in-store Bluetooth tracking capabilities to let customers view and buy items right from their iPhones.

No matter what Apple store I go into, it always seems to be crowded and busy, no matter how many "blue shirts" are working. As a result, it can take a while for an employee to ask if they can be of assistance. Which for me is cool, because I'm an Apple enthusiast and a tech geek in general - most of the time, I already know what I'm going into the store for and want to get in and out in as little time as possible.

For non-techies who may need some additional assistance before making a purchase, the amount of people buzzing around your typical Apple retail store can be frustrating, especially during the holiday season.

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Just in time for the this year's shopping season, in an attempt to make as much money as possible assist as many people as possible, Apple has launched new technology that will enable the store to offer suggestions and notifications on items, and general assistance by tracking a customer's location in the store.

Via Bluetooth on your iPhone and special iBeacon transmitters located in certain sections throughout the store, customers can potentially receive messages about products, be notified when their order is ready to be picked up, or let them know how much credit they can get by trading in their "old" phone for an upgrade. The messages/notifications will be personalized according to where the customer is physically located in the store.

The new technology is live today in 254 U.S. Apple stores. Customers will need to have the latest iOS 7 operating system installed, the Apple Store app downloaded, and give Apple permission to track you throughout the store. In other words, customers concerned about their privacy can rest assured that Apple will not automatically "watch you" as soon as you enter the store.

On a personal note, my experience with retail store customer service has garnered various results - I either get followed around persistently, or completely ignored in favor of other customers. Maybe Apple's approach to automated customer service may provide non-biased results that favor everyone equally?

Additionally, having worked in retail, it is very easy to get stretched thin between people who are just "browsing" and those who legitimately need help. In a popular store like Apple, I can only imagine how stressful it can be around the holidays for its retail employees.

What do you think? Can in-store tracking technology assist consumers (and employees) and possibly reduce shopping stress, or is this another excuse for companies to track our every move?

-By Terrence Gaines

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