Mar 13 4:44 PM

Phone data helps small businesses regain the edge online retailers have

Turnstyle Solutions is a Toronto-based consumer analytics startup that primarily helps small businesses learn more about their patrons. What makes them unique, however, is they aren’t simply trying to poll customers or review purchases. They’re using the one-of-a-kind IDs in every cell phone to track when people enter an establishment, how long they stay, and where else they may have traveled in a given day.

"TechKnow" contributor Kosta Grammatis traveled to Toronto visit one of Turnstyle’s clients. Fan Zhang owns the bar and restaurant Happy Child. He said that having the cell phone transmitter in his business, collecting hits from those who enter, helps him compete with online stores.


“What kind of data do you need from Turnstyle?” Grammatis asked.

“How many people come to the door or how long they stay,” said Zhang. “That’s the most important thing to me.”

Turnstyle’s data collection was able to tell Zhang that the average Happy Child patron stayed for 2-3 hours per visit.

None of his customers have ever complained about the presence of the transmitters, though collecting data from wifi-enabled devices raises obvious security questions. Zhang said that most people had bigger risks than businesses knowing they’d entered the building.

“At the end of the day,” he said, "if you’re walking around with your wifi enabled, there’s a lot more that someone could potentially do to you than just registering a hit on our transmitter.”


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