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Mobile Apps Offer New Trove of Consumer Data


For years retailers stockpiled consumer data without necessarily knowing what to do with it.

But thanks to technology, that has changed.  Retail systems are able to leverage consumer data in many helpful ways, such as predicting demand, tailoring assortments and pricing to groups of stores and even specific stores, and delivering promotions to groups of consumers and even specific consumers.

The adoption of technologies that are driven by consumer data is the theme of the 18th annual State of the Industry Report on Supermarket Technology, which starts on Page 10.

But the use of consumer data to drive business decisions begs the question, how do consumers feel about it? That is, do consumers want data on their shopping tendencies collected and used by retailers to make pricing, promotion or other business decisions?

An interesting example of this was described recently in The New York Times Magazine in an article on Minneapolis-based Target’s marketing efforts. Target, the article said, was intent on figuring out which of its female shoppers were pregnant because these shoppers — the retailer’s holy grail — are not only going to be in the market for a bevy of baby items but are susceptible to having their shopping loyalties altered.

But Target realized that some pregnant women did not appreciate having their status as expectant mothers made part of the retailer’s marketing plan. So instead of inundating these women with baby offers, Target judiciously mingled them with other unrelated offers to make their intentions less obvious, the article said.

In the future, consumer habits will continue to be important to retailers, but they won’t have to worry as much as about intruding on consumers’ privacy. That’s because consumers who choose to will directly communicate their wishes through smartphones and social media, providing a whole new treasure trove of data.

Over the next few years, consumers will “pick mobile apps that match their personal preferences to the products they want,” such as items with reduced cholesterol or from the Atkins diet, said Bob Fassett, vice president, North America consumer products, retail and distribution leader, for Capgemini, New York. Retailers who are given access to this information will be able to react to it appropriately.

So consumer data will continue to drive retailers’ decisions, but the best data will come willingly from consumers.

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