Grocery stores are using spy technology to get you to spend more money


Target groceries grocery store

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Kolleen Irwin and her daughter Ariel, 3, shop for groceries at a Target store in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009.

From Target to Kroger, grocery stores want to figure out what makes customers tick - and they're using methods that seem straight out of a James Bond movie to find out.


In November, Target expanded its test of beacons installed in LED light bulbs that track and guide customers to relevant products via their cell phones in 100 stores.

With the system, wireless signals travel between customers' Android devices and the stores' LED lights, pinging them with promotions, as well as guiding them to relevant and discounted products.

This helps customers find products without having to ask Target employees for assistance, as well as giving the company more data about customers' foot traffic within the store.

With this data, Target can reduce the staff needed to assist customers, place items more thoughtfully in high-traffic areas, and target customers even more specifically in promotions via app as they walk around the store.


The expansion to about 100 stores makes this the largest deployment of "spy lights" by any retailer, reports lighting publication Lux. However, Target is far from the only chain using technology that seems like it was snagged from the CIA.

Kroger grocery store supermarket

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Kroger already has rolled out a technology platform that uses sensors and predictive analytics to feed managers real-time data on customers entering the story at all locations - the first system of its kind in the US. While the data is less specific than Target's LED beacons, it has helped cut average wait time at the stores' checkout lines to 30 seconds, down from four minutes.

Beacons of all kinds are transforming the retail business. A BI Intelligence report predicts that beacon-triggered messages will directly influence up to $4.1 billion in total US store sales this year. Next year, the figure is predicted to grow to more than ten times this, reaching $44 billion.

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