mobile location analytics (MLA)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: DIY BI: A guide to self-service business intelligence implementation
Contributor(s): Ed Burns

Mobile location analytics (MLA) is a type of customer intelligence (CI) that tracks smartphones and other Internet-capable computing devices as they move through a store.  

By charting the movement of devices and their owners, retailers can gather data that will help them optimize such things as floor plan layouts, advertisement placement and checkout lane staffing.  Most MLA products work by capturing a device's MAC address. In very simple terms, a MAC address is the unique12-digit string of letters and numbers that is assigned to a specific hardware device. This string is what allows the device to be detected by nearby WiFi or Bluetooth sensors.

Although mobile location analytics products do not record personally identifiable information about specific customers, they have generated concerns about customer data integration and consumer privacy. To address these concerns as they related to smartphone tracking, several  MLA vendors have worked with United States Senator Charles Schumer and the Future of Privacy Forum and to develop a smartphone tracking code of conduct. Under the voluntary code of conduct, MLA vendors and retailers will inform customers when they are being tracked and allow customer to opt out. The code of conduct will also limit the types of data that can be collected and specify how that data will be protected. 

See also: customer analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), CRM analytics


This was first published in April 2014

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