Retail technology is so advanced that businesses are now able to stalk their customers, although legal issues currently prevent them from doing so, according to leading BI software vendor SAP.
The company said that one area of focus for the firm's retail strategy is to provide businesses with in-memory real-time data on customer behaviour - this consists not only of customer transactions that take place in stores or online, but also unstructured social media data from services such as Twitter and Facebook.
The software is advanced enough for businesses to use it to see exactly what each one of their customers is buying in the store, and match that customer to their social networking profile for comment on the product following purchase.
However, businesses hoping to get this depth of information on their customers are currently unable to do so, due to various legal and security issues in most countries.
"If you look at sites such as Facebook, where you've got friends talking about your products on social networking sites, recommending products and services to each other - you realise how important this data is to the business," said Stefan Gruler, global head of trading industries at SAP.
"You'll see people sending notes about products via Twitter, answering questions, giving recommendations - we need to find and collect this information and figure out what it means.
"At the end of the day, the real value of that data comes when you put intelligence into it and combine it with the right analytics system to get the right data that helps you make decisions out of that."
He added that with enough information on the customer, businesses could find out if the person entering a store is the same person tweeting about it later, but, as with many of the potential scenarios that SAP can envisage, the major questions over the use of such technology today are legal and security ones.
"Are we allowed to use it? That's the real issue at the moment," added Gruler.
The company also outlined other aspects of its retail strategy, with online commerce remaining a strong area of focus. The company's recent research showed that, even for in-store purchases, around 40 per cent of the information used to make a decision on any product comes from the internet.
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