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A new survey from the retail app publisher Retale explains at least a few of the reasons why mobile payments initiatives have failed so miserably in the U.S. The poll of more than 3,000 active app users found that more than 70 percent of respondents said they don’t want to be tracked via their smartphones as they walk through a store, while only 29 percent said they weren’t concerned about having their movements monitored. And while iOS users were split on whether they wanted to receive in-store notifications on their phones, 61 percent of Android users said they don’t want to receive such messages. Meanwhile, 56 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with NFC, and 75 percent were unfamiliar with Apple’s iBeacon technology. (Retale gleans offers from print coupons and ads and delivers them through mobile apps and its website, so the company has a dog in this fight.)
I don’t think the lack of consumer awareness regarding mobile payments technologies is a problem — shoppers don’t want to know how their mobile transactions are powered any more than they wanted to know which kind of 3G network they used. But consumers’ unwillingness to be tracked and receive notifications in stores is likely to be a real problem for retailers looking to leverage iBeacon and other Bluetooth-based technologies that are just beginning to come to market. Those retailers must not only educate shoppers about their marketing tactics, they must provide value through discounts or product information users actually want. And they must resist the urge to ping their customers at every turn. Bluetooth low energy has the potential to change in-store shopping in big ways, but campaigns that aren’t well thought-out and executed will alienate consumers.