Spy Shopping: The price we're really paying - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Spy Shopping: The price we're really paying

We all want to save money, and smart phones make it easy for us to receive and keep track of coupons for our favorite stores. But are we paying too high a price to save a little money? You might be surprised what advertising companies know about you and the new frontier they're using to reach you almost anytime and anywhere through your mobile phone!

"People are DVRing TV shows, fast-forwarding through commercials, watching hulu and netflix," social media marketing expert BJ Fischer explains. "Traditional means of being able to reach consumers have become less effective, so marketers have gone out and tried to find new ways to do it."

That makes your smart phone the new frontier. Marketing companies use apps like "yowza" and "retail-me-not" to entice you into your favorite stores with coupons. 

Marketing app developer Michael Dempsey says, "We know people are living on their smart phones today.  Everything's going mobile and as marketers we really need to target that device."

The savings can be great; but how do they know where you shop and what you want to buy?  With "cookies--" little pieces of data that bookmark websites you visit, products you buy, even places you go!  Marketers then use that data to send you offers that are personalized just for you!

Fischer says the business of advertising and marketing has really changed.  "It's partly about the ability to talk to one specific person about what they specifically were doing and not talk to groups any more. "A lot of younger consumers are really excited about this:  having an ad that's directly relevant to them that they can use right away.  They've cut off their cable service and are looking at everything over the internet, so they actually are attracted to it."

Consumer Tony Kapp tried the retail apps but found them a bit overwhelming. "I got tired of it because a lot of the coupons I had no use for so I just opted out and got rid of it."

Now he searches online when he's looking for savings, but he still gets coupons and ads pushed to his phone once in awhile.  That's because marketers can track you through your GPS!

Michael Dempsey develops apps at Thread Marketing and believes they can be effective marketing tools. But he points out we all have to take control of the information we give up. 

"All the major cell carriers when you sign up for a contract there's tons of terms of conditions that no one reads. When you install an app on your phone there's tons of terms and conditions that no one reads.  And mostly what people are doing is agreeing to let those companies share that marketing data with their marketing partners."

Consumer Marna Ramnath has downloaded a few of the savings apps on her phone. 

"If I stop to think about it, yes, it's sort of like "big brother," she says.  "But they do get my attention sometimes!"

Dempsey doesn't look at the apps like "big brother."  "I think it's marketers trying to market to a new channel, " he said.  "It's a little overwhelming, it concerns us because the device is so personal to us, we're attached to our smart phone all day long!"

So buyer beware: don't let your "smart" phone out-smart you! 

"I opt to carry a smart phone and it knows stuff about me, yea," said Kapp. 

Ramnath said "if I really worried about it I would delete them. 

The bottom line? It's a trade off.  You give up some of your personal information in order to save some money. But remember: you can control who has access to your information through the settings on your phone, so be sure you check them or have someone help you so you understand the access you're allowing marketers to have to you! 

Mobile users, click on the "Video" button in the app to watch this story. 

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