I know you’ve been shopping today!
Walmart Grocery Checkout Line in Gladstone, Missouri, by Walmart Corporate.
Cashier: Hello Madam, hope you enjoyed your shopping experience with us today?
Me: Yes thank you.
Cashier: Do you have your loyalty card Madam?
Me: Yes, here.
Cashier: Oh! Mrs Makhoul, lovely to see you again. You haven’t been to our shop for the past 2 weeks! Hope everything is ok? I have good news for you as your total is more than $100 you get 2 boxes of the berries you love for the price of one!
Me: Not today, thanks.
Cashier: Oh! What about trying the new diet chocolate biscuits we have. We know you cannot resist chocolate!!
Me: No, thank you. maybe another time!
Cashier: How about…
Me: Can I just pay for God’s sake!
It can keep on going and going until you lose your mind…these are today’s supermarkets! They are like the Big Brother watching us, they know when we come in, what we buy, what we like, whether we prefer paying in cash or credit…they collect Big Data about their customers, so big that you feel they have been watching you or even living with you.
If you want to compete in today’s business world you surely need a pool of information about your current, past, and future clients. Data collection is becoming an integral part of day-to-day transaction. Businesses want to know who you are, what is your color preferences, your best perfume, where you go for shopping…etc.
Supermarkets have embraced this technology and have started collecting data about their customers as an approach to expand their market and increase their sales and profit. They collect our information, and we willingly give it to them, to see our shopping habits and target us with personalized offers by emails or SMS…
So how do they do that?
“Yeahhhh I got my Harrods loyalty card! “ What an excitement we feel every time we get a loyalty card! Will we still be excited after receiving our credit card statement of account which will surely increase as we will be spending more and more with each card?
Tesco, Sainsbury, Spinneys… were among the first giants hypermarkets to start the loyalty card system to collect information about their customers. Many clients feel privileged to have those cards without knowing the amount of personnel data they are offering to those companies.
Loyalty cards are one of the most important tools that help customers spending more and more without even realizing it. Another important point we miss as clients, is that this information is shared by others! So no one knows who else can see our shopping habits, when and where have we been, and whether or not we are healthy shoppers…
Items displays are done according to this data collection. The supermarkets can tell how loyal you are and will help you becoming more loyal by displaying your preferred items in the best places at competitive prices. Or at least this is what we think!
As Guy Montagues-Jones of the Grocer said: “If you have a loyalty card or shop online, the supermarkets will build up a demographic profile of you, and collect data about how loyal you are, what you buy and how much you spend”. So your search criteria will then be personalized and you will be able to easily find what you are looking for.
Donna Feguson from the Guardian wrote an interesting article where she mentioned how Tesco used data from its 16 million Clubcard holders. They analysed data from those clients to target ads to online users of its new free movie service. “Launched in March, this streaming site also offers TV shows such as The Only Way is Essex, and is available to anyone with a computer and a broadband connection.
But in order to tune in, you have to register your Clubcard number and postcode. Clubcard TV director Scott Deutrom posted on his blog that “we can target adverts based on what our customers bought yesterday” (a Tesco spokesperson later claimed this was just “a vision” at the moment). “
Electronic Point of Sale
Another way of collecting data is by monitoring what we buy through the EPOS. So supermarkets can analyse what is selling more or less and what is in demand. Then they can order accordingly from suppliers, have offers, stock items in relevant places…etc. So basically it helps supermarkets in improving the way they are doing their businesses in order to get more profits. All the stock information is stored in the stock control databases and information about stock level, prices, suppliers….can be easily retrieved. Relational databases allow supermarkets to contact and even order their stock when needed automatically. So their stock is always up to date and it provides accurate information, faster transactions and less errors; this keeps customer happy.
Debit/Credit cards offer also a range amount of information. Cashiers obviously won’t be able to see details of your spending but cards companies sell your information to retailers so they can analyze them. They can even check who you are as your name is tied to the card. So Big Data is also available from these cards. But where is our privacy?
We are living in a digital world, so does privacy really exist? We have GPS in our car, we have smart phones that we use to check in here and there, we use social media and our photos are now everywhere. So is it really a big deal if our information is being shared by retailers?
We sign forms allowing retailers, websites, social media…to use our information, but do we really know what we are signing? I bet no one has ever read these lengthy forms written in font size 8! They are not meant to be read! Legally all companies cover themselves. So yes, they can use this Big Data as we gave them permission. They do emphasize that they are fully complied with Data Protection!
So what’s next? What can I do?
Big Data is already too big and information is spreading fast. I cannot see how to slow it down or not be part of it. Even if we throw away all our cards and decide to start paying in cash companies can and will take your information. Every time we try to pay in cash we get a tempting offer: Use our app and pay half the price! So we do it. We are living in a digital world and it is very hard to decide to isolate ourselves and not be part of it. I know this causes lots of social and ethical isues but aren’t the advantages more? Usually only adults are supposed to use these cards. So adults should have the rational thinking and should be able to weigh up the pros and cons of those cards and decide accordingly how often and where to use them. The temptation is sometimes uncontrollable especially for the female gender like me who loves shopping! So we need to try and control ourselves ladies!
By the way does anyone know if Selfridges has a loyalty card?
Post written by: Samar Aad Makhoul, ITGS teacher.