Physical tracking in shops has been a global trend since at least 2013. Using a cell phone’s location data and video monitoring, retailers have been tracking customers’ movements through stores in an effort to regain some of the ground lost to the online retail experience.
At least, that’s the argument from stores. And now fast food restaurants are picking up the rallying cry.
On the back of nearly 20,000 fast food locations using its customer-tracking technologies in stores, the Los Angeles-based startup Sense360 has raised $7 million in its first round of financing.
The mobile-sensing technologies that are at the heart of Sense360’s technology track location and survey data from customers to sell to fast food stores customer feedback (both voluntary and involuntary) on what’s working and what’s not working at locations around the country.
Investors in the round included Firstmark, Qualcomm Ventures and Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures.
The company also established an advisory board with heavy hitters from fast food restaurants, like Joel Aach, a former vice president at Darden Restaurants (the company behind The Olive Garden restaurant chain and others); and Huw Griffiths, the global chief product officer at the marketing firm Universal McCann.
Sense360 isn’t the only company that’s looking at customer behavior. BirdEye raised $25 million in February to not only analyze customer behavior and feedback but also to provide a sort of relationship management that the company said can help convert negative sentiment into positive experiences.
Both companies are building on the foundation laid by other startups, like ShopperTrak, Retail Next, Nomi and Prism Skylabs.
Aware of the pushback that has shuttered a number of location-tracking services in higher-end retail outlets, Sense360 chief executive Eli Portnoy takes pains to highlight the care with which Sense360 approaches customer data.
“We only work with apps that have a legitimate reason to collect location data and all participating apps must get user consent to acquire and share the location data,” Portnoy wrote to me in an email. “We also do not collect personally identifiable information. In fact, we intentionally obscure sensitive data like wifi access points so that we cannot access that information, ensuring added privacy.”
Portnoy said that the company never shares individual data with third parties, and that all reporting is provided in an aggregated format.
That means Sense360 isn’t sharing data, just access to the dashboard that allows restaurants to view the data that’s been collected.