Big Data and Retail – Positive or Negative to the Consumer

As it is a big shopping weekend in the US, I thought it would be appropriate to write about retail and how the increased use of data and personal information is aligned. This has been in use for decades now, but it has often been seen in other lights and not disclosed as publicly to link to the pricing and offering you receive for a specific product or service. In today’s environment of social and mobile providing more links to personal data, it has only increased its visibility and value.

Last week Facebook released their latest updates to the privacy policy, including additional details they use from your profile and behavior /usage patterns on the site in advertising. We should not be surprised as we all know that any free online or mobile option for consumers is using your information to help support the business with advertising. This extends beyond social into anything and everything mobile that is free. The application that you have downloaded for deals or games usually asks for your name, age, phone type and carrier at the very minimum. This is just a small part of the overall data that they learn about you as an individual and then use to monetize their website or application via ads, suggested deals, etc. Specific to Facebook, it is predicted that more than 40% of the revenue will be from mobile in 2013.

As you might be looking at all of the deals, how are they personalized for you? What type of price or offering is unique to your location, preferences and spending habits? The dream for any brand or retailer, whether the shopping is brick and mortar store visits or completely online, they want you to take action and lead to exploration and hopefully purchase in their store. The data on who you are as a consumer or customer is fragmented even more with mobile. This is due to challenges across your identity, whether you are using your Facebook ID to sign in, another name, email, credit card or location. How to find a unique identifier that is aligned across all customer databases is quite a challenge with the diversity of communication channels in the integrated marketing we live in today. They can observe and study the trends at a generic macro level in the store traffic and/or mobile store, but linking them all together to customize an offer for you as an individual is more challenging now than the online world.

The oldest example of tracking for customized offers I can think of personally is the CPNI, which stands for Customer Proprietary Network Information. This is the usage patterns that the carriers such as AT&T and Verizon have on you as a customer to understand the time, date, duration and destination of your phone calls. They use this information to create new packages and promotions and especially when they are looking to recommend or sell you on a specific plan. This has generally followed the trends in communication with the recent clarification that this applies to mobile usage and information as well.

As we transition to a more digital economy, and mobile/social are engaged in almost every brand and shopping experience, it is assumed that we will continue to provide information in exchange for a discount or deal. From the phone number and email to have a loyalty/club card, to the identity on a mobile app, it is always looking and following your habits. Where do you think this trend will be in the next year or two? Ten years? It is a huge opportunity and benefit to the corporate brands and channels, however is the exchange in value there for the consumers? Will more countries adopt the do not track options that are present in Europe? Time will tell – and clearly interested in your insights.

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