While stores probably won't begin tracking our every move with a security camera, it will probably become commonplace for an emailed offer to come to us via our smartphone when we're in the store, Jao says.
Of course, there is a Big Brother quality to how much retailers know about us, even if it's simply a matter of computer algorithms figuring us out, versus a bunch of people in a room looking at our purchases and making judgments on whether we have lousy taste. And data analysts are keenly aware of that perception – which is why retailers need to strive to "be helpful, not creepy," says John Healy, COO of Monetate, a Conshohocken, Penn.-based website optimization and analytics tech provider. (In other words, the company takes a lot of customer behavior data and helps companies make predictions on how online customers will behave.)
[See: 10 Signs You Shop Too Much.]
And Hosanagar, who is also Monetate's chief scientific advisor, adds, probably spot-on: "Stores have a lot to lose if they violate the customers' trust."
Corrected on 07/12/2013: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the company Monetate.