Consumer data: a double-edged sword

truth-infographic-thumbnailYou’re not anonymous. Your location can be recorded on your smartphone, and while this is an advantage if you’re trying to find directions or restaurant nearby, when does it become invasive? Your behavior online allows your device – computer, smartphone, tablet – develop a relationship with you that you may not always want. They remember your likes sometimes better than your best friend.

Finding the right audience is key to any marketer. But with messages bombarding consumers everywhere they turn, how can we be sure our messages are being heard? We need data. And not just name and email address. We need to know who is more likely to purchase a new vehicle, buy a new house, or need a colonoscopy. Timing is critical. You want your message to be available at the time the consumer is making their choice. We also need to know how those people like to receive messages web ad, email, or word of mouth. All of these considerations lead us back to the need for data.

Companies and websites routinely gather details on the behaviors of their customers. You might appreciate the suggestion you receive in a banner ad for new suitcase or the perfect vacation spot, but you may feel that advertisers know too much about you. Big data collection companies have billions of data points that allow them the ability to create individual profiles on millions of Americans. While this potentially could be invasive, the ability of marketers leverage this granular data to pinpoint marketing efforts will help ensure the best return on investment. The ability to gather this personal preference data allows marketers an opportunity to develop a relationship with their customers. But, it must be used respectfully. Due to growing concerns over people’s personal information, just last month, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that legislation be enacted to allow individuals more control over their personal data and how it’s being used. Only time will tell if we will be able to control our digital profile.

How do you feel about a complete profile being created of you based on your buying and online behaviors?






  1. The marketing people are able to invade the space of the individual because the individual allows them to do so. Choice always remains with the individual to defend their personal space from invasion, there are no victims just idiots.

    1. Thanks, Alex, for your comment. It surprises me that anyone today that is engaging online would not be aware that their information is being gathered and used for retargeting. Caution should be used on any sites where you are sharing personal data, and if you don’t want it shared, there are some protections you can put in place. That said, I still would like the opportunity to see what is being collected about me. Certainly ethics should come into play but I am not naive enough to think a company isn’t using my information for their financial gain.

  2. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of marketers monitoring my buying behavior. I kind of like the concept of businesses using the information to develop and provide products and promotions that meet my needs. However, as a consumer, the downside is that companies like Meijer, have really honed in on successful strategies that take the information and offer incentitives to customers to get them to purchase items that they wouldn’t otherwise buy. In comparing Meijer check-out coupons with a friend of mine, we discovered that we both had different coupons and a number of the coupons we received were for items we typically never buy. While I think the concept is clever, as a consumer, it would be nice to feel as if I’m getting a deal on things I already purchase.

    If marketers begin to use the information in a more threatening or intrusive way, I would certainly have a problem with it but for now, I’m fine.

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