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The License Plate Loyalty Card

June 11th, 2009

That’s all well and good for law enforcement, but how does this play into retail? The biggest element of the law enforcement use of this equipment are a wide range of databases that feature stolen vehicles, missing kids and all kinds of arrest warrants. Whenever the system sees any plate that is wanted, it sounds an alarm.

Without those databases, the cameras are being sold to the business community for many purposes. Can those databases—which would identify the people associated with specific license plates—be obtained? Not really. States are no longer supposed to provide that information, although some still can be purchased, here and there.

But there are several viable ways that retailers can quickly identify consumer names and associate them with that car. Reading cell phone identification—as described above—is one popular method.

Another approach takes longer, but it’s using the process of elimination. First, the mall or store asks for all employees who work there to volunteer their license plate information. It could be done on the pretense of allowing employees into employee-only parking or making sure that their cars are on a do-not-tow list. Once done, they are placed in a database of license plates to be ignored.

That will eliminate a huge number of the cars that are parked regularly. As for the others, time and databases will eventually identify many of them. A blue Honda with license plate A12345, for example, has been spotted eight specific times over the last two months. POS records can look for a match, seeking any customer who made purchases during those particular days and those particular times. Of course, not every one who visits the store will buy every time, but that process of elimination will likely identify quite a few.

How valuable could this be? If a store has its own parking lot regularly scanned (pole-mounted cameras are efficient) and then sends someone to physically scan the parking lots of key competitors, how much would that be worth? What if it told you that customers were leaving your store to go immediately to a rival?

Let’s push the envelope. What if you could text message those customers at that moment, offering them an extreme discount to come back?

Not sure if license plates will ever truly become the next loyalty card, but with license plate scanning and wireless devices on the body of most consumers, be prepared to have far more business intelligence options in the next two years.


9 Comments | Read The License Plate Loyalty Card

  1. Bryan Larkin Says:

    Ok, so you can’t drive to the store because they’ll link you to your car. Your phone already tells everyone who you are. You can’t walk to the store without you cell phone because facial recognition or “gait/walk” recognition will get you. You can’t shop on line because that is the easiest way to track you.

    And people were up in arms about RFID tags on clothing????

  2. Chakri Says:

    A similar practice is in place in London (for a different reason). Where a local store Tesco scans cars that are parked over an hour (some stores more than 3hrs) and sends parking fine. Let us if they use this to attract shoppers.

  3. Tim Says:

    This is really scary stuff. Am I the only one that has an issue with privacy? The thought of various stores all around the area knowing where I am and what I’m buying at any moment sends shivers down my spine. This is Big Brother at it’s worse.

  4. roo Says:

    The day I determine that a retailer does the stuff described here is the last day I go to that retailer.

  5. Deborah Says:

    Forget the license plate – the mobile phone is the key to tracking the consumer’s movements. Until the consumer uses his/her phone to process a payment for a purchase transaction, Retailer 1 (Macy’s or whoever) does not know that the consumer bought anything at Retailer 2.

    Think carefully about what you want flowing through the nifty phone of yours. No one promised you privacy when bought it. It’s likely the case that those handy apps are both a curse and a blessing.

  6. Marty Says:

    Sounds like the physical version of what you reported Sears being “smacked” for…on 6/7/2009…was this your “inspiration”? Enjoyed the article though…thanks!

  7. Kenneth Says:

    one of the keys to successful retail marketing has to be non intrusive and providing value. In the e-commerce world there is always a balancing act of personalization versus mass promotion. In the web world the amount of data collected is huge once a consumer touches the site, in the physical world we are starting to see that level of data collection as technology improves.

    This reminds me of an old story I was told once. A man takes clothes to dry cleaner, and next time he parks his car and walks in, the owner already pulling his clothes before seeing his ticket. He asks how the owner knows that was him since he isn’t a “regular” and pulled the clothes without checking the ticket. The owner showed him a PC under counter which he has tied license plates to ticket numbers if they are parked in front of the store in the 15 minute zone.

    It is always a debate between privacy and personalized service.

  8. Payments Expert Says:

    In Sydney in Australia they have completely eliminated the plastic wireless responders at Tolls – recognition technology automatically per the article links license plates to payment of tolls. Tourists hiring a car can simply make a call and link a credit card to their hire care license plate for a given period of time. Very simple and quick.

    This means every toll road can be automated – massive impact in streamlining traffic flow.

    If this could be applied in the US, it would not only save millions of hours in avoiding tollgate delays, but also energy consumed in stopping/starting, blood pressure and frustrations reduction but also increase revenues for toll systems by increased use – savings could be passed to consumers (as if that will happen ;-)

    Far more convenient that sitting in traffic for 30 mins waiting for traffic at a sporting event to clear or due to someone sifting into their glove compartment for hidden money after dropping their quarters into the drain at the tollgate by accident….

  9. Toll payer Says:

    License plate tolls have been implemented in the United States. The E-470 Public Highway Authority in Colorado has been doing this since 2009 or earlier.

    I preferred stopping to pay tolls so I didn’t have to deal with E-470’s buggy online payment system. If their Web site wasn’t so awful, license plate tolls would be great.


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