Your Secrets Companies Can Learn

Description:  “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”

Source: nytimes.com

Date: Feb 16, 2012

the-incredible-story-of-how-target-exposed-a-teen-girls-pregnancy

As the marketers explained to Pole — and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop — new parents are a retailer’s holy grail. Most shoppers don’t buy everything they need at one store. Instead, they buy groceries at the grocery store and toys at the toy store, and they visit Target only when they need certain items they associate with Target — cleaning supplies, say, or new socks or a six-month supply of toilet paper. But Target sells everything from milk to stuffed animals to lawn furniture to electronics, so one of the company’s primary goals is convincing customers that the only store they need is Target. But it’s a tough message to get across, even with the most ingenious ad campaigns, because once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained, it’s incredibly difficult to change them.  READ REST OF STORY 

 Questions for discussion:

  1.  Are there any ethical dilemmas to using big data in consumer services?
  2. What other commercial applications can you see for organizations in using big data?
  3. What skill would you need to be able to use Big Data in an organization that you work for?
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67 thoughts on “Your Secrets Companies Can Learn

  1. Anish Singh

    While Big data simplifies our world and makes it more and more efficient in coming days, it also raises a question about ethical dealing of our data which is confidential. While companies are able to provide more specialized services and solutions to their consumers based on the information collected at POS and through multiple other methods like surveys, this analysis creates a huge implication on the advantages if a data breach may occur.
    A data breach will result in tons of confidential information being spread out and create a chaos in terms of maybe an identity crisis. Hence, Big Data raises numerous ethical questions like standards for data protection, data shredding, and also the companies should define the extent to which they want to study the consumer like not infiltrating their private lives by drawing a line.
    Organizations become more and more efficient by using data analysis techniques as they become able to predict the consumer’s behavior. In coming times, the companies can cut down their costs by producing only what consumers want. The companies can speculate the trends, demands and make better decisions to cope with certain market conditions like changing trends.

    To be successful in implementing BigData in an organization, we need to be capable to understand the use of data and be able to analyze the results. A Manager can make wise decisions about investing in marketing or managing finances by the amazing amount of analyzed data which they receive. We don’t need to have a specialized knowledge about how BigData or Hadoop actually works but be able to analyze the output and apply towards the benefit of the company.

    Reply
  2. Xuan Wen

    Actually, we have the right to choose where we are going to shop, but companies can do research base on the database of what we were shopping. By analysis those database, companies can create products that people want to buy. Companies can also do researches on web side because a lot of people share their personal information such as what they would like to buy. People like to share their personal information do not mean they like to be tracked. Information Target may create more harm to a shop company than benefit because for most people the reason they go shopping is that buy what they need. Information target may lose customers because most people consider it as an invasion of privacy, and they will choose another place to shop. Most people does not like someone recommends them while shopping. People always want to make their own choice when they want to buy something. I am working in a restaurant for part job, and I know a lot of customers’ special requirement. However, I ask what they want every time because they may change their requirement and I do not have the right to help them make a decision. Therefore, I think information target may influence their customers to make a decision. Unfortunately, companies make ads by using database research is inevitable.

    Reply
  3. Jacob

    One application I’ve noticed is the connection that Coca-Cola has made by tag-teaming with McDonalds, and connecting that brand. To me, the idea of drinking a Coke on its own at any particular time of the day isn’t that exciting, I do however tend to choose it over water or any other soft drink when eating fat food. I can identify as a habit, and after reading this article is has made me realize all the times ive seen those Coca-Colas in McDonalds commercials. I’ve labelled it as habit forming because it is the same way I always drink root-beer at A&W, again another habit.
    When it comes to ethical dilemmas, of course it depends on how all this Big Data collection is being used. If corporations are trying to target me for things they have figured out I like, such as advertisements for the new alternate Canucks jersey, I’m fine with it. I’d rather hear about a product I’m more likely to buy than one that I would never even think of buying (jewellery, tampons, etc.). Now the problem arises with things such as identity theft, through means of hacking these corporations with all this data for example. So it is an issue of protection over information rather than ethics. That being said, you don’t always know (especially online) who is taking note of what.
    Also in the case of febreeze, Big Data really helped a great product get into the hands of consumers that didn’t even know they needed/wanted it. Great article.

    Reply
  4. Ryan.kozole@uleth.ca

    In all, there are many ethical dilemmas with companies through using their Big Data in order to gain personal information in order to get shoppers to appeal to them.

    Many of the ways companies use Big Data to gain information on how to get people to buy their products is based a lot on age, sex, marital status, location, pregnancy or expectance and even credit card scores to pick on consumers that have more money to buy their product. Obviously these companies are using your secrets to get into your wallet, however what is scary to me is the fact that these companies have personal information in their Big Data, and within the grasp of possible hackers. By companies keeping and storing information on you just to be able tie in a possible marketing strategy is a very risky decision. Ethically carrying someones personal information and having it out there for hackers to possibly take that information and put it to use is a big safety issue. It is a very big consequence the companies are taking proven by this are article just to get into the pocket books of consumer.

    Stores like Target that try to appeal to everybody carry a major IT system that has a lot of Big Data on it. If hacked, Not only could the company’s “secrecy” create a lot of controversy in the future, but any possible personal information on consumers would be available to hackers. Therefore, not only does using this secrecy put consumers at risk, but it puts a big liability target on the company’s back.

    Reply
  5. Mohammad Ashraf

    There has been much debate about this topic and how companies are using the customers/users personal information to study the behaviour of the customers and have get them to purchase to purchase a product that they did not intended to when they first walked into a store. This article has explained in great detail, the extent that companies, such as Target, can go to. I believe that Target’s practice of using big data the way they have, is unethical. They are collecting personal information of customers in ways that many could not imagine. There have been controversies surrounding social media platforms that can have the ability to keep users information even after the user has deleted their personal information. However, this is practice is completely different. Companies such as Target, are pretty much stealing personal information for their advantage, without the consent of the customer.

    Big data can be used for a number of commercial applications. An organization can use big data to study their workforce and their employees. This may include the productivity and the amount of training, which is ideal for new employees to perform at the highest level in a work environment. Big data can be used to compare schools and assess the performance of new graduates in the workforce. This may include assessing their soft skills, such as how well new graduates from the U of L work in a group, compared to other universities.

    I believe that using Big Data effectively in an organization would require more critical thinking and problem solving skills than technical knowledge. The main point of an information system’s process component is generating the most useful information. So I believe that using Big Data would require a lot of real world experience and the ability to think outside of the box when assessing information to come to a conclusion and come up with information that is useful and will result in a competitive advantage.

    Reply
  6. Ayesha S

    This article was a very interesting read. It is quite horrifying how companies can give away our biggest secrets without even knowing. It is quite unfortunate our information is all over the web. We leave footprints online like we leave foot prints walking in the snow. Unfortunately, many are not even aware. We are monitored every single day through our purchases like the young lady in this article. Although, people do not appreciate being tracked on every single move they make, they do not have much of a choice. When we make purchases, use services and even apps on our phone downloaded for free. We are giving them access to our lives for it to become data for companies to use to enhance their sales. There are a bunch of ethical issues involved with this but it is all around us. We are surrounded by companies watching our every single move. We can always educate our generation on how we are being used as data for companies to benefit off of. People have managed to get the word across from documentaries and campaigns. In order to see a significant change, we need to continue to get the word out. Another way of coming through might be to try to compromise with companies. For example, the girl in the article should be given the choice if she wanted to have advertisements/ coupons sent to her regarding her prior purchase. That way information is still collected, but privacy is still maintained when it needs to be.

    Reply
  7. Shiqi Wang

    In the article, I am agree with the saying “once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained, it’s incredibly difficult to change them.” However, it is a huge challenge for business man to make customers cultivate the habit of coming to their store. Big data, like most innovations, is a double-edged sword. It brings huge benefits. It allows organizations to personalize their products and service on a massive scale; it fuels new services and even business models, and can help mitigate business risks. At the same time, allowing data scientists to run amok can harm individuals and institutions in unanticipated ways. In particular, two marketer has predicted that through 2016, 25 per cent of organizations using consumer data will face reputational damage due to inadequate understanding of information trust issues, and 20 per cent of chief information officers in regulated industries will lose their jobs for failing to implement the discipline of information governance successfully.
    I need to be able to use Big Data with good analytical capability in an organization that I work for. To analyze big data effectively, organizations must ensure they can access their data using their IT assets. However, the individual need for analysis varies between organizations. Many companies are therefore rethinking traditional approaches to performing analytics. Instead of downloading data to local desktops or servers, they are running complex analytics in the database management system itself.

    Reply
    1. Jacob

      One application I’ve noticed is the connection that Coca-Cola has made by tag-teaming with McDonalds, and connecting that brand. To me, the idea of drinking a Coke on its own at any particular time of the day isn’t that exciting, I do however tend to choose it over water or any other soft drink when eating fat food. I can identify as a habit, and after reading this article is has made me realize all the times ive seen those Coca-Colas in McDonalds commercials. I’ve labelled it as habit forming because it is the same way I always drink root-beer at A&W, again another habit.
      When it comes to ethical dilemmas, of course it depends on how all this Big Data collection is being used. If corporations are trying to target me for things they have figured out I like, such as advertisements for the new alternate Canucks jersey, I’m fine with it. I’d rather hear about a product I’m more likely to buy than one that I would never even think of buying (jewellery, tampons, etc.). Now the problem arises with things such as identity theft, through means of hacking these corporations with all this data for example. So it is an issue of protection over information rather than ethics. That being said, you don’t always know (especially online) who is taking note of what.
      Also in the case of febreeze, Big Data really helped a great product get into the hands of consumers that didn’t even know they needed/wanted it. Great article.

      Reply
  8. Morgan

    With more customer data being generated while we shop, it is easy to see that ethical dilemmas may arise from ways companies choose to analyze and use that data. I do believe that it is an ethical problem for companies to use certain methods to track and obtain data such as peoples ethnicity, number of credit cards, whether or not they are pregnant, and for them to use them as a means to boost sales. On the other hand, we as a society are willing to put the majority of our private info out on the internet, thus allowing it to become public information, shopping is not much different, if we choose to purchase goods at a store we don’t have much of a say in the fact that the store may track what we have purchased. Commercial applications of big data can be to use the info to determine buying habits of individuals and groups, therefor allowing a business to tailor their products, services and entire strategy to maximize profits. Big data revolves around a business’s ability to use predictive analytics, from every piece of smart technology to the internet, they all create big data meaning there is a large demand for those who analyze and work with big data. To use big data, you would need to have a strong understanding or data processing, analyzing, forecasting, networks, It. Another key element that could be benefited to an organization is to have experts in psychology to help forecast based on data and knowledge of human behaviour.

    Reply
  9. Ann

    I can understand why expectant mothers would feel spied on in these situations. Typically when I give my information to a company such as Target, and I assume that a lot of other people feel the same way I don’t expect that company to take so much interest in what exactly I am purchasing. Before reading this article I thought that the information that I handed over was mainly for points programs and it never occurred to me that in fact the company was taking note on everything that I was purchasing and sending me coupons to entice me to come back to the store to purchase that item again or potentially because statistically it states that I am pregnant. However I do understand that when I voluntarily disclose my personal information to a company they could possibly use it for whatever they feel fit.
    I don’t feel that what Target is doing is especially terrible or unethical. I think that if you provide them with your personal information you should be aware of the possible outcomes. It helps them to become more competitive in a flooded economy and look more appealing to the customer. When they first began this system and sent out obvious coupons to customers it was a bit much because it shows how much they know about you and could spill the beans on information (the father learning his daughter was pregnant) that you’re not ready to share yet. In learning this they have made adjustments to the systems they are using to avoid such incidents from happening again. Yikes!

    Reply
    1. chitra

      Big data is really useful but at the same time it is risky too. companies use different methods to collect data. they conduct surveys or they buy internal databases from the other companies to expand their database and knowledge about what is in demand or what does a customer need. for a company this information can be very useful to provide customer with the best service but at the same time customer might be affected by this as the information they provide the other companies can be confidential. so, there are ethical dilemmas to use big data in customer services. for example customers provide their personal details in the banks and other financial institutions and somehow other companies or credit card companies get their information and customer might get tons of junk mails or telephonic calls which bother them.
      companies can use online data available for their profits. by knowing customer behavior they can make their marketing strategies or they can target a set of customers and provide them great service. they make customer driven strategies to help improve their previous performances and eliminate any wastage of assets or inputs and thus can become more productive and profitable.
      we sure need some skills to use big data for the organization. first thing is the data available on internet is really vast and broad so company needs someone with skills to narrow down that data and make it beneficial for company. the data can be really difficult to process or understand so the company need skilled individual to decode that data. some data are really useful for a company to know this individual customer like this type of music or prefers different type of clothing brands but at the same time choices and preferences can very with time and that individual’s financial position. so company needs experts to design best products and services which can serve customers better in every way possible.

      Reply
  10. Katherine

    Well, when we decide to shop in anywhere, as a certain point we are giving them power over us, because is easier for the company to make a scan of what we are purchasing, they just easily track our needs, tastes, preferences by doing an analysis of our stuffs. Obviously, one of our rights is having privacy, but at the present with all technological advances and people engaging each day more and more with it, there are a lot of techniques developed and developing by companies to do a follow up. As we have read and checked in different articles, retailers or any kind of business, need to collect data everyday, if a way of doing the best instead of not doing anything. For example when you use amazon they save your last products search and when you go back to the page, they recommend you again that item. Also in websites like Expedia, Kayak they save your last trips search and later when you are using another page you get alerts about those tickets prices you were checking.
    My company is starting to develop apps for purchasing online , already used customers service backgrounds, a data base with all the customers in national territory and we also use International data base, but we are just working in new ideas for engaging in a better and competitive way market, is also doing partnership with important market search brands as nielsen that have a huge data base about different targets, competitors.
    Through innovation and iteration, we aim to take things that work well and improve upon them in unexpected ways. So, finally we already know that we are responsible of what we share with people at any super store or just by completing forms.

    Reply
  11. Ashley Nelson

    1. Are there any ethical dilemmas to using big data in consumer services?
    Today more than ever people are sharing their personal information all over the web. Although, through documentaries, news articles and personal experiences people are becoming more socially aware of the how releasing information can be dangerous. People dont like being tracked and they certainly don’t like it being done without their knowledge. I think that there would be a lot of ethical issues if people were to know about how much information Target is collecting as many people may see this as an invasion of privacy. It may cause more harm to the company than good in the long run as people may tend to shop in other locations where they don not feel as watched over.
    2. What other commercial applications can you see for organizations in using big data?
    Although this could be scary for consumers, for businesses this is a great idea and could be used in almost any kind of company; especially retailers. This allows them to know their target better and result in an over all profit increase for the company.
    3.What skill would you need to be able to use Big Data in an organization that you work for?
    You would need to have skills in computers and an understanding of how the numbers work. You would also have to be incredibly responsible and someone your company trusts. If you were to use this information and knowledge of peoples lives outside of the company that would rise even more unethical issues.

    Reply
  12. Chelsey Brown

    To shop in a store and make a purchase in my mind is to give consent to information, it is in those circumstances where the consent is not giving and data is used by outside organization without permission. It seems as though everything you enroll in a new incentive program you are flooded with disclaimers that give companies permission to use information in order for you access their services, everything from signing into an Apple account to posting an ad on Kijiji. Having made a purchase at a store such as target I fell tells target that you are interested in them and that they have the ability to make ‘offers’ to you of new products and ensure you stay informed about their goings on as much as they informed about you. I think target and other organization have the ability to use this data effectively, if shopping patterns changes through a person’s life the ability to target these individual not only serves the company but serves the individuals as well and offers them a useful outlet. I currently work for a restaurant and data is collected with each visit especially those who have enrolled in our loyalty program. We are able to view the amount of time they have visited out restaurant, there birthday, anniversary age, where they are from and what they have ordered form us in the past. As of now we operate locally and on a small scale, in order for us to get the most out of the data that we collect much like in this article is would take a full time analyst and an effect IT program to transfor this data into meaning outputs. We could easily tailor make ads for guest who frequently order pasta dishes

    Reply

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