Have a cellphone?

   Your stroll through downtown Ripon will leave behind more than just footprints in the snow.

   A digital signature is being captured with every step, giving the state and Ripon organizations a better idea of who’s shopping here and how often they visit.

   It’s all part of a pilot program Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) is running with select communities around the state — an initiative communities such as Ripon hope will help them better understand their target audience.

   Simply put, every time someone with a cellphone visits downtown over a two-year period — going back a year and ahead for the next year — certain general, demographic information will be collected from those phones via “pings.”

   Though this may sound futuristic, it’s something that happens regularly already.

   “‘Geofencing’ is something that’s been around for quite a long time. Every time you walk into a Bed Bath & Beyond or a mall or anything, they know exactly who you are, how often you’ve come there — which is why you get all those wonderful coupons in the mail if you haven’t been back in a while,” said Errin Welty of WEDC. “But it’s something that costs typically tens of thousands of dollars. So it’s been limited to the big-box stores and large-mall owners.”

   As such, communities such as Ripon never could have considered utilizing the same technology to track visits — at least, not until recently.

Read the full story in the Dec. 5, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.