7 Ways Retailers Know What You’re About To Buy

by Jeff Cruz

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Do you know what information you’re unknowingly giving to retailers? We explore how they track your shopping habits and use that info to predict your purchases.

You might have wondered how some retailers seem to know exactly what things you need at the exact time you need them. Do not be confused that it’s just about seasonal shopping. When a retailer sends you coupons for shoes just as you are thinking about going to the store to order them, you must have told them about your plans without realizing it.

Retailers have developed several methods to track and understand your shopping habits. Here are seven ways retailers can track you and predict your shopping habits.

1. Store Loyalty Cards

Have you ever wondered why stores are so concerned about giving privileges like special discounts to loyalty-card customers? This is because these cards make tracking your shopping habits easy for the store.

When you pay with your loyalty card and the receipt machine gives you a coupon, be sure to look closely at the coupon. You will realize that the coupon reflects your previous purchases at the store. The data of what you have bought with your loyalty cards are stored and you will soon start to get offers to purchase supplementary products from the store. The more you shop with a store loyalty card, the more the store knows about you.

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2. Your Phone Number

Some stores ask you for your phone number at checkout. Most people will provide the phone number without thinking.

It is a fact that your phone number instantly gives away your location. Aside from that, it can be used to do a reverse lookup for your physical address. Once stores have your phone number, there are many ways they can track you with it and ensure that they keep you spending on their merchandise.

3. Store Wi-Fi

If you like free store Wi-Fi, you have taken the bait. You may give your personal data plan some relief, but there is a price to pay for it.

To start, store Wi-Fi ensures that you stay longer on the store’s premises. Moreover, Wi-Fi can be used to track you from your devices in real-time. Through Wi-Fi, stores can track which aisles you visited first and which offer attracted your attention most, judging from how long you stayed at a particular aisle. The information stores get from you using their Wi-Fi will enable them to optimize your shopping experience and ensure that you keep spending.

4. Your Smartphone

Once you have connected to a store Wi-Fi on your smartphone, you can be tracked in real-time, and they will track you. Through a technique known as geofencing, retailers know you are inside the store and map your shopping path.

If you connect to store Wi-Fi, they know your shopping habits in detail, and you can suddenly start getting offers related to products in the aisles you visit frequently.

5. Website Cookies

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on your computer, phone, or any other device when you visit a website’s server. Organizations use it to keep track of how people navigate their websites.

Retailers love to use cookies a lot. These cookies supply them with much-needed information about your visits and activities on the website. This enables them to get ready for your next visit. Not only do they use these cookies to trap you into spending more, but the information saved on the cookies can be sold to third parties, encouraging you to spend everywhere and every time.


Cameras are an integral component of all retail stores. Stores place their cameras in such a way that you think they are only positioned to view shoplifters.

This is a calculated deception.

The cameras are put in place also to watch you, an average unsuspecting shopper. Facial recognition software can be used to determine when you enter the store and how you react to products and offers. This will ensure that they are better prepared for your next visit.

7. Social Media

Retailers sell the notion that they are on social media to advertise and promote their brands. Undoubtedly, this is part of their goal, but there is another goal they do not discuss.

That goal is espionage.

Brands and retailers will push offers at you on social media all through the day. Meanwhile, they are carefully collecting your responses to these offers. The more you react to these offers by either liking them or sharing the links, the more they know about you. They’ll use that feedback to prepare for the next time you visit their store.

Reviewed November 2023

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