RFID: Tracking every step of a conventioneer

Stephen Baker

I've spent the last couple of days at a Marketing Metrics conference in Austin. The theme, which we sounded in the math cover, is that data analytics are growing more crucial every day in marketing. For better or worse, it's moving from a realm of fuzzy ideas to domain of hard numbers.

Consider trade shows. How much do companies learn about the people visiting the booths? Can they convince them to fill out a form or submit to a swipe of the bar-coded badge? Sometimes. But Art Borrego, ceo of AllianceTech, described at the conference how radio identification tags (RFID) will increasingly be embedded in trade show badges. This will enable companies to track the movement of thousands of individuals. They will learn what a person is interested in, how long he or she stayed at a certain booth. Match this with info provided upon registration, and they'll have loads of geographic and demographic data--about us.

They are using this data to generate marketing leads, to figure out people's interests and suggest other booths to visit. This is a little bit like Amazon's book recommendations. They're able to analyze the human flow through the convention, as if it were a Web site, and they can make adjustments. They can optimize. And with the data from the visitors in their bank, they can continue to ply them (if the visitors have opted in) with targeted e-mail.

Think ahead. If this technology works at trade shows, it will likely spread to political conventions, to retail stores (with RFID tags on customer loyalty cards). Yankee Stadium, perhaps? Where else will we be tracked, modeled and optimized?

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