Posts Tagged ‘habits’

Target bellies up to moms-to-be … by mining their shopping patterns.

February 22, 2012

In a previous post, we excepted from a NY Times article How Companies Learn Your Secrets that

  1. Much of what people do is based on habits, not conscious reasoning.
  2. Consumers’ shopping habits and brand loyalties are often more habitual than thoughtful.
  3. But, there are certain “events” — e.g. new baby, new home, recent divorce — that seem to make consumers more open to switching stores and brands.
  4. Savvy marketers are learning to identify these critical events — before they happen — and try to get consumers to switch  their behavior.

Target is one of the retailers identifying customers who are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers” … and pouncing on them.

Who?  Moms-to-be.


According to the NY Times article, Target identified about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed them to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score.

For example, sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women tend to load up on body lotions and supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc.

With that information in their computer systems, Target can identify likely pregnant women and, more important,  estimate their due dates, so that  Target can send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

It’s a bit unbelievable … and a lot creepy.

And, oh yeah, it works.

But, gotta wonder why Target let this cat out of the bag …  if this story goes viral,  the privacy concerns are likely to offset the added sales to moms-to-be.

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Hitting consumers when they’re “vulnerable to intervention by marketers”…

February 21, 2012

Punch line: Many of consumers’  buying behaviors are habitual — deeply ingrained and difficult of to change.  Marketers have to identify times when consumers are open to change and get them. to break  their habits. 

The good news: the are times when consumers are, in fact, ripe for change …

In the 1980s, a team of researchers led by a U.C.L.A. professor named Alan Andreasen (now at MSB) undertook a study of peoples’ most mundane purchases, like soap, toothpaste, trash bags and toilet paper.

They learned that most shoppers paid almost no attention to how they bought these products, that the purchases occurred habitually, without any complex decision-making.

Which meant it was hard for marketers, despite their displays and coupons and product promotions, to persuade shoppers to change.

But when some customers were going through a major life event, like graduating from college or getting a new job or moving to a new town, their shopping habits became flexible in ways that were both predictable and potential gold mines for retailers.

The study found that:

  • When someone marries, he or she is more likely to start buying a new type of coffee.
  • When a couple move into a new house, they’re more apt to purchase a different kind of cereal.
  • When they divorce, there’s an increased chance they’ll start buying different brands of beer.

At those unique moments, Andreasen wrote, customers are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers.”

In other words, a precisely timed advertisement, sent to a recent divorcee or new homebuyer, can change someone’s shopping patterns for years.

Excerpted from NY Times, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, by Charles Duhigg

Note that Prof. Andreasen didn’t just pick off the obvious stuff — e.g. new parents buying baby stuff,  new home owners furnishing their new digs, or divorcees buying new duds.

No, the life-changers seem willing to change many of their buying patterns and brand loyalties.

Next: How Target identifies customers who are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers”  … and pounces on them.

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