Habits and privacy settings

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Published on March 21, 2016 with No Comments

By now the term “privacy settings” is mostly associated with Facebook and Google. Any change to privacy settings suddenly gets everyone up in arms. There’s likely to be a flurry of media stories and editorials on the positive and negative implications of the new privacy policy. Meanwhile, completely unrelated to Facebook and Google, by virtue of their shopping habits, people give away scads of information about themselves – while being almost clueless about it. Brain studies reveal that habits (behaviors that are repeated over and over) require less thinking. Once someone shops at a specific store for certain items, they’re likely to continue doing so. Consequently, retailers want to become the place of habit to their customers. They do this by enticing customers with coupons for products that are relevant to their needs.

Image of Target ClearRx prescription bottles b...

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In an interesting case, outlined in TIME magazine, a father complained that Target was marketing baby related items to his high-school aged daughter. As it turns out, the retailer’s analytics had accurately revealed that his daughter was indeed pregnant – but he did not yet know this. And how did they know? Well, a certain group of items purchased together give clues about what’s happening in a given person’s life. Target can track purchases with a unique number assigned to each shopper – tied to their debit and credit cards. Ah. But there’s more. Realizing that customers might be creeped-out to learn how much information is collected, Target can mask their true intent by including random coupons for blow dryers, for example, alongside coupons for say, diapers. And ultimately, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that retailers collect information. It’s just that shoppers’ habits alone can tell much more about them than they realize.

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