We recently told you about Walgreen's "smart coolers" that monitor customers to customize their targeted ads.
Love it or hate it, it's just another way physical stores leverage technology to enhance their profitability. And with the threat of online shopping at an all-time high, they are looking for all the help they can.
Another modern-day convenience that brick-and-mortar stores use to compete with their online counterparts is the smartphone app. Aside from features, promotions and perks that make the in-store shopping experience better, retailers also use these apps to lure customers away from other online shopping sites.
But what if these shopping apps are adjusting their prices depending on where you are? This is exactly what this major retailer was accused of. Read on and learn what you can do about it.
Target updates app due to price-switching claims
Target has updated its app in response to the Minneapolis TV station KARE 11's report that the retailer switches its prices on its app whenever customers are in the vicinity of its stores.
Now, the updated app will clearly indicate if an item's price is "online" or "in-store" to avoid any confusion.
The station's two-month investigation started when one of its viewers noticed that an electric razor she bought for $99.99 inside a Target store switched to $69.99 once she returned to her car.
To test it, they then selected 10 random items on the Target app and found that four of them jumped up in price whenever they entered a Target store.
For example, a 55-inch Samsung TV's in-app price was $499.99 but as soon as they pulled into a Target store's parking lot in Minnetonka, its price immediately increased to $599.99 on the app without any indication of the price hike.
What was happening? Is the retailer implementing a form of dynamic pricing in its app to prevent price matching?
Is it dynamic pricing?
Dynamic pricing, the practice of adjusting the cost of an item on the fly depending on the location or as market demand changes, is nothing new.
It's controlled by algorithms that take into account such things as the customer's ZIP code, competitors' pricing, level of demand, time of day, the day of the week, and in some cases, even the operating system used.
However, Target maintains that there's no such deception involved and its in-store price-matching policy for Target.com and other retailers still stands.
In an emailed statement to KARE 11, Target said that its app merely showed "in-store pricing while in store, and online pricing while on the go."
Target app now has in-store and online price tags
To avoid any confusion, the updated Target app will now include tags indicating if an item's price is valid in-store or at Target.com. Additionally, each product page on the app will now directly link to the retailer's price-matching policy.
Note: As per Target's policy, it will match the price of a qualifying item if you find an identical item for less at Target.com, select online competitors, or within Target’s or a competitor’s local print ad.
Don't want dynamic pricing? Turn off location tracking on your app
Even with the updated app, and the clear "in-store" or "online" tags, Target said that it will still change certain displayed prices when a customer visits a store.
If you always want to see online prices regardless of your location, you can turn off the Target app's location access (or any shopping app for that matter). Note: Turning off the app's location access will also disable certain features (finding stores near you, in-store item location, store promotions, etc.).
Here's how you do that on both iOS and Android:
- Tap on your Settings icon
- Scroll down until you find the app you would like to change
- When you find it, tap on the app to open its settings
- Tap Location and set it to Never
To check your apps' permissions on Android, go to Settings >> Apps >> Select the app you want to check >> then tap Permissions.
Here you'll see all the permissions that the app has (Camera, Contacts, Location, Microphone, Storage, etc.). To revoke Location permission, toggle its switch to off.
Learn more about apps that are tracking you. Listen to this free Komando On Demand podcast.
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