By Joseph Baker
News that iPhones and iPads were secretly tracking users’ information has raised the ire of privacy advocates. However, it should be no surprise that anything with a proximity card could be used to track movement.
Researchers have revealed the latest iPhones and iPads are tracking web browsing, map searches and online purchasing. However, Apple’s bad news came on the heels of good news.
It was recently confirmed iPhone sales reached 18.7 million units. This, for the first time, allowed Apple ($11.9 billion) to top Nokia ($9.4 billion) as the largest handset maker by revenue, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
I’m not into conspiracy theories, but it’s difficult to accept the tracking snafu as an accident. Imagine, as a retailer, having access to your customer’s normal traffic route on any given day, their shopping habits (based on location and internet purchases), and even their Facebook data. How valuable would that be to you?
Over the past 10 years, retailers have spent billions of dollars trying to answer the question “Who is the customer?”
In 2010, Proctor & Gamble spent 11% of its $78.9 billion in sales on marketing, adding a 1.3% increase in overall revenue, with a substantial increase in the amount of e-commerce both for the placement of relevant ads and opportunities to participate in online surveys and focus groups, according to the company’s 2010 annual report.
This compares conversely with the decrease in utilizing traditional ads found in magazines, coupons, and bottleneck opportunities (subways, theaters, etc.). Back in 2006, 85% of all retailers planned to increase their internet advertising.
This heightened interest in online purchasing is directly linked to the reviews customers post about the product after purchase, according to retailers. A customer can shop for something specific while at the same time reading the personal reviews of the users. This increased traffic online has automatically created the “buyer map” that links behavior to buying patterns. With ecommerce on the rise, these maps are only getting larger.
There is no question that Apple will survive this privacy controversy, they always do (and in their current state they always will). The ironic point to be made is that the very people who complain about the systems they use will go on using the systems to the point that the very concern will be buried by the user’s own justification. Convenience, it seems, takes precedence over tracking and security.
Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for over 15 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. In addition, he has led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, both public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from the IU – Kelley School of Business and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.