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Is Continuous Tracking of Goods a Bad Idea?

by simon
Seemingly as soon as they announced it, LL Bean stopped their plan to use sensors to track goods after a sale.

While it’s unclear yet why the clothing brand canceled the project, the idea seemed to have merit. After all, the more you know about your product the better, right? New technology makes continuous tracking beyond your supply chain possible. But, does customer concerns about privacy make it a bad idea?

Continuous Tracking After Inventory

The plan showed forward-thinking in retail technology and seemed like a savvy move. In short, LL Bean wanted to know how customers used their products after the sale. Earlier, in 2017, LL Bean partnered with Loomia. That company makes a “smart fabric” that uses blockchain. Combining blockchain with IoT, LL Bean could capture data on temperature, number of washes and frequency of wear. But about a week later, the company backed off its continuous tracking scheme. Specifically, it assured customers it would not track all products after they’ve left its inventory. Rather, it would limit the technology to consenting product-testers.

Continous Tracking vs Privacy?

While the company didn’t say why it backed off, the reason may be obvious. If consumers even suspect a brand misuses their data, they’ll do more than just walk away. Nearly 70% would boycott a brand if they thought it was playing loose with their personal data. Beyond the security of things like credit card information, people want brands to respect their privacy. So it’s possible that LL Bean did not want to come off as being overly intrusive with its continuous tracking concept.

Plenty of Data to Tap

While continuous tracking may give a brand valuable insight, companies already generate tons of data. Yes, understanding how customers use products may help develop that product further. But it doesn’t help a brand if consumers think you’re spying on them. As it is, businesses can tap the data already in their supply chain. Tracking best selling products, monthly sales by location, and other vital information help businesses plan ahead.