Digital’s Fine Line Between Creepy and Cool


It’s no secret that today’s consumers are viewing mobile devices while shopping in-store. But, as enticing as personalization is, marketers and retailers need to understand that there’s a fine line between creepy and cool.

According to RichRelevance’s “Creepy or Cool” study, which analyzes consumers’ attitudes toward in-store digital experiences, “creepy” is requiring more transparency or explanation to help the shopper feel safe, while the latter is aiding the discovery of relevant products or information.

“Shoppers want digital personalization when they are ready to engage,” says Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance. “They may not be ready for personalized messages the moment they walk in the door or even when they hit the dressing room, but our survey suggests they welcome relevant information and promotions when they are making a purchase decision.”

“Creepy or Cool,” which polled more than 1,000 U.S. consumers last month, breaks down attitudes by age group—18 to 29; 30 to 44; 45-59; and 60+. Millennials see eye-to-eye with their elder counterparts with regards to in-store personalization, though they’re more comfortable with cutting-edge technology like facial recognition.

One bone of contention between the age groups is dynamic pricing in the aisles (i.e., the practice of offering different prices for the same product). Millennials were the only age group to rate this feature more cool than creepy.

Other findings include the ones listed below. You can also view them in the clickable chart.


  • 76%: Consumers who say scanning a product on a mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items of interest is cool.
  • 69%: Consumers who say offering an interactive map on a mobile device that shows exactly where items are located and charts the most efficient path through the store is cool.
  • 44%: Consumers who say locating them in-store to trigger personalized recommendations, promotions, and coupons via their mobile device while shopping is cool.

Getting creepy

  • 42%: Respondents who say ditching in-store price tags so that retailers can display tailored prices on digital screens is creepy.
  • 55%: Respondents who say providing digital screens in each dressing room so that retailers can offer product recommendations based on current items and past purchases is creepy.
  • 62%: Respondents who say having a salesperson unlock the dressing room door before a consumer arrives based on that consumer’s in-store location is creepy.

Definitely creepy

  • 73%: Consumers who say using facial recognition technology to put targeted ads on digital screens based on consumers’ identified age and gender is creepy.
  • 74%: Consumers who say having a salesperson greet a consumer by name when he enters the store by having his mobile phone signal his arrival is creepy.
  • 75%: Consumers who say leveraging facial recognition technology to identify a consumer as a high-value shopper and then relaying that information back to the sales associate is creepy.

“Our study shows that retailers need to focus on digital store capabilities that drive engagement and convenience by making sure the right products and content are always available to shoppers,” Kegley says. “Retailers have a huge opportunity to leverage their biggest asset, the store, to gain an edge when it comes to customer experience.”

Click on the images below for a closer look at these “cool” and “creepy” experiences.



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