In this paper, we consider the applicability of the customer journey framework from retailing as a driver for urban informatics at individual scales within urban science. The customer journey considers shopper experiences in the context of shopping paths, retail service spaces, and touch-points that draw them into contact. Around this framework, retailers have developed sophisticated data science for observation, identification, and measurement of customers in the context of their shopping behavior. This knowledge supports broad data-driven understanding of customer experiences in physical spaces, economic spaces of decision and choice, persuasive spaces of advertising and branding, and inter-personal spaces of customer-staff interaction.
We review the literature on pedestrian and high street retailing, and on urban informatics. We investigate whether the customer journey could be usefully repurposed for urban applications. Specifically, we explore the potential use of the customer journey framework for producing new insight into pedestrian behavior, where a sort of empirical hyperopia has long abounded because data are always in short supply.
Our review addresses how the customer journey might be used as a structure for examining how urban walkers come into contact with the built environment, how people actively and passively sense and perceive ambient city life as they move, how pedestrians make sense of urban context, and how they use this knowledge to build cognition of city streetscapes. Each of these topics has relevance to walking studies specifically, but also to urban science more generally. We consider how retailing might reciprocally benefit from urban science perspectives, especially in extending the reach of retailers' insight beyond store walls, into the retail high streets from which they draw custom.
We conclude that a broad set of theoretical frameworks, data collection schemes, and analytical methodologies that have advanced retail data science closer and closer to individual-level acumen might be usefully applied to accomplish the same in urban informatics. However, we caution that differences between retailers’ and urban scientists’ viewpoints on privacy presents potential controversy.