December 12, 2018
Anne Felicitas, editor at AdvertiseMint, Facebook ad agency
The words “retail apocalypse” makes even millionaire business owners tremble in fear. No one is safe, not even household names that have captured the hearts of customers for generations. More than 3,800 US stores closed in 2018 alone, among those stores include Toys R Us and Sears.
Many cite e-commerce as the cause of the retail apocalypse. Noah Smith in this Bloomberg opinion piece points out that the convenience of online shopping has lured consumers away from physical stores.
“Going shopping takes a lot more time than clicking some Amazon buttons. As people’s time becomes more valuable — hopefully because of rising incomes, but also because of consumer technology that makes our leisure time more fun — it seems like they’ll increasingly value that convenience [saving time].”
Thanks to e-commerce, consumers can purchase items online from the comfort of their couches, avoiding the hassles of long checkout lines, dawdling crowds, and busy parking lots. While retailers may blame the internet for store closures, although seeming like the villain to retail stores, the internet may be the savior after all. As reported by Buzzfeed News, Facebook is patenting technology that will increase foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores.
Every Move You Make…
According to Buzzfeed News, Facebook submitted several patent applications for technology that will predict users’ offline destinations. Using location data, the technology will predict where users will go next.
This is how the technology would work. Facebook sees user A at an office building. Based on previously logged locations of the user and behaviors of users similar to user A, Facebook then predicts User A to visit LA Fitness from a block away.
Location tracking is not a novel invention. In fact, if you have location turned on in your settings, Facebook is tracking you right now through the app. Specific actions, such as tagging a location in your post or checking in also shows Facebook your precise location. Predicting where you will go next, however, is a capability Facebook does not yet possess unless the company develops the technology in the patent applications.
A Solution to Fewer Store Visits
According to Buzzfeed News, Facebook will use the new technology to pre-load content to users predicted to be in an area with no internet connectivity. That way, users can view content no matter where they are, dead zones be damned. This is good news to users with terrible data services and to users who live in countries with weak internet connectivity. But this is especially good news to retailers who need more foot traffic to their physical stores.
If Facebook can predict where users will go next, it can send relevant Store Vists ads from the establishments Facebook predicts that person will visit. For example, if user A often visits Whole Foods after leaving work, Facebook can send Whole Foods ads to user A to encourage a visit to the physical store.
To Be or Not to Be?
As thrilling as the new development sounds, excitements should be curbed. Although Facebook is submitting the patent applications, it is still uncertain whether the social media company will create the technology.
“We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patent applications—such as this one—should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” said Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison in the Buzzfeed News article.
Of course, Harrison may be saying that to evade the press’ probings.