The retail nerds have been analysing your brain and they know more about you than ever before — whether you’re rich or poor, single or married, pregnant or a parent and even where you went to school.
“The more advanced companies in Australia are really stepping up in the neuromarketing and neuroscience area,” retail doctor Brian Walker told news.com.au.
“They’re learning about the human brain and neurotransmitters. Classically, it’s been about product push, but the latest trends around consumer pull, and drawing you to a product with subconscious cues.”
On the front end, there’s the store layout, design and look — all now influenced by your needs and desires.
Behind the scenes, say the experts, there’s some heavy number-crunching going on, with scientists mining historical data and interpreting patterns.
In 2012, Target in the US made headlines when it worked out that a teenager was pregnant before she had told her father, who turned up at the store to complain that they had sent baby-related ads to her in the mail.
He was forced to apologise after it emerged that the retailer’s analytics had simply recognised the signs before him. Those clues might include purchases of vitamin supplements, maternity clothing, large quantities of lotion and hand sanitisers, a store statistician told the New York Times.
What a shop knows about your pregnancy, and your life, is quite terrifying. After learning your preferences through direct mail, purchasing patterns, surveys, social media and loyalty cards, they will entice you into the store and direct your behaviour.
“It’s down to the level of product location,” said Mr Walker. “Products are strategically placed alongside related adjacent products. As your pregnancy advances, the products that are most relevant are placed more strategically, so you don’t have to bend over, for example.
“Your purchases can tell them when your baby will be born, then there’s a whole campaign towards the baby and the cycle continues.
“If you’re of a certain age and profession, they might introduce men’s shirts.
“It’s all about data, understanding consumer behaviour at a greater level than before. And then piling and segmenting that data to move it to the power of one.”
On the one hand, many would argue that this deep understanding of us as individuals is a good thing. It means we only receive tailored adverts and promotions for products we’re really interested in.
But Mr Walker admits it sounds “a bit Brave New World” and “has implications for our privacy.”
“That’s the role of regulators, to regulate privacy — or try to,” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword.
“It’s efficient. As long as the consumer stays in control, I think it’s OK.”
Can we remain in control if our subconscious is being targeted? It’s getting increasingly difficult. Right now, we face an onslaught on all sides by sophisticated marketers working with big data and trying to pick our brains.
A few years ago, we learned that Google ad settings knew our age, sex and interests. Sign into your personal account and take a look at who it thinks you are here. We found out that eBay is predicting what we want to buy, based on trends and major events such as the World Cup and Olympics, for example, when flatscreen TV purchases spike.
As for social networking sites like Facebook, thanks to your likes, clicks and shares, they “know you better than you know yourself,” from whether you’re depressed or your relationship is in trouble to whether you’re a hard-worker or a bad credit risk.
What’s more, they’re all sharing the data with each other.
Four years ago, the NYT said the main challenge for retailers now was camouflaging what they were doing so it wasn’t obvious they were tracking everything about you. Since then, the discussion has gone very quiet.
When news.com.au sought comment from big retailers for this story, we received an immediate “no” from Woolworths and Kmart and silence from Target and Coles.
It’s all a little spooky.
news.com.au 20 Mar 2016
Every time the peasants by something on plastic, add the purchase to their 'frequent flyers' or some other 'reward' points they are giving away valuable information which is used to profile and enslave even further.
But that's what the general populous really is ... just corporate slaves, right?