February 22, 2012

Buying Big Purses and Searching Fantasy Football: What Does Data Say About You?

I will admit it; I have a love affair with data. There are vast amounts of data collected.  There are the endless opportunities for companies to understand more about our beloved customers.  When I mix these with my love of analytics and marketing, it really is a match made in heaven.  Companies have been collecting data for quite some time and now the more they understand the data they are better able to really know their customers. I have watched more people are taking notice of this, and I wanted to share some of the things that I have read and seen. Some use of the data deserves a round of applause, and some still have me confused.


The Round of Applause Goes to…

The other day Forbes.com posted an article titled “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”, and I felt that thrill of a data geek! I have had the chance to work with retailers data, so I have had a chance to see first-hand some of what they can do with the data they collect.  The article discusses how Target can predict that a customer is pregnant, and possibly even their due date based on their purchase history. Who knew that buying some unscented lotion and giant purses could trigger a company thinking I am pregnant? Apparently Target, since they did send coupons for baby clothes and cribs to an expectant mother. She just happened to be a teenager, living at home, and hadn’t told her father about her pregnancy yet. Probably not the best situation- there can be an ugly side to the data. However, sending the right message at the right time to the right people is the goal of direct marketing. This really meets the goal. Target is able to reach customers at a time where they will begin to rethink their buying habits, and supply them with offers that will build shopping loyalty during this exciting time in their lives.  Appropriately used permissions, privacy protection and preferences are probably a good thing here too, but it’s still fascinating.


The Mind Boggler…

A couple of weeks ago there was a bit of a buzz around Google users being able to access their user settings to see “who Google thinks you are”. I have been forever fascinated by the data Google has about me… they have information from my emails,  my search history, my Google Reader subscriptions, my Google+ account, the YouTube videos I watch, etc. The possibilities are endless, so of course I had to investigate. Turns out Google thinks I am a middle aged male.  Considering I am a female, and I spent my Saturday mornings growing up watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Punky Brewster, this is pretty far from the truth. These results left me left me a bit mind boggled. Google has access to almost all of my internet data (I even willingly provide them with information in my Google profile), but apparently all my searches for fantasy football and big data have lead them astray.

You can click here to see who Google thinks you are.

What a company knows about you may be creepy to some, but some companies use this data so wisely that you may have a much better experience with them as a result. Next time you open your email, and there is an offer from your favorite retailer, ask yourself, “How well does this company know me?”