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Ear to the Ground

Target Knows Your Secrets

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Posted on Feb 16, 2012
Mr. T in DC (CC-BY)

Decades of neuropsychology research have given Target the ability to predict customers’ shopping habits with increasing precision. The company’s statistical team can even tell when shoppers are likely to be in their second trimester of pregnancy. Combined with aggressive and often intrusive marketing tactics, such powers promise to add millions to its already swollen revenues. —ARK

The New York Times:

And among life events, none are more important than the arrival of a baby. At that moment, new parents’ habits are more flexible than at almost any other time in their adult lives. If companies can identify pregnant shoppers, they can earn millions.

The only problem is that identifying pregnant customers is harder than it sounds. Target has a baby-shower registry, and Pole started there, observing how shopping habits changed as a woman approached her due date, which women on the registry had willingly disclosed. He ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, February 17, 2012 at 1:51 am Link to this comment

I bet if I had worked for Target, they would have taken a life insurance policy out on me.

Listen up Target, it isn’t going to happen.

I will never die you vampires!!!

My urine is like holy water and it is I who will pee down your back and tell you it is raining. Not the other way around.

Oh wait, this article is about expecting shoppers.

Well then Target, too bad for you, if and when I consent to allow my sperm to fertilize… oh forget it.

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By do over, February 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment

Target?  Oh those guys who wouldn’t let the
Salvation Army bell ringers outside their stores.

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By heterochromatic, February 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

=====The company’s statistical team can even tell when
shoppers are likely to be in their second trimester of
pregnancy.======

they was totally wrong about me, (though I was a few
weeks late and more than a little worried)

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