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Shoppers and Numbers - Are You Being Tracked

Updated on August 31, 2012
Average shopper
Average shopper | Source

We all have shopping habits, buying certain items in certain stores, checking others for sales and so on, but did you know the stores have turned it into a business? Predictive Analytics lets stores keep tabs on you and what you buy thereby predicting what you will buy and need. Have you heard of a customer tracking system? Additionally stores use customer order tracking systems so they can track the items you order through the store or online. Stores are using them to track your buying habits and length of time in the store. They also use (not all stores yet) customer IDs to track your purchases and let them keep an eye on your buying habits. According to Wikipedia;

Predictive analytics is an area of statistical analysis that deals with extracting information from data and using it to predict future trends and behavior patterns.

Stores and manufacturers use this information to track your behavior and influence your future trends. They track when you are going through major life events. For example, if you buy pre-natal vitamins they put you down as pregnant and start sending you advertisements and/or coupons relating to baby products to get you into their store before you start shopping for baby products somewhere else.

We don't notice, but the stores and their analysts do, that as we go through major life changes our shopping habits most likely shift and we are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers.” Of course online shopping has its own tracking capabilities and systems.

Analyzing figures
Analyzing figures | Source

These marketers have found that the right advertisement or the right literature sent at the right time can change a person's shopping habits for years to come. They are looking for the smart shopper, the one who will come back and look for the deals. You are not just a shopper you are their bread and butter and they need to track you and how you shop to influence their success not only in marketing but in sales.

In researching this article I think the scariest thing I came across was Malls tracking you through your cell phone. Right now the information is anonymous but it can track your cell phone from store to store. Smart phones anyone?

Back to regular 'predictive analytics'. In this economy it is important for stores to be able to predict what buyers will be buying and/or tailor their merchandise to those needs. Many stores can now gather the information they have on customer habits and look into new products they think customers will buy. Rather than putting those products immediately in every store, they can run a pilot and put them in a few stores to see if their figures are right. If the sales are a success they can then roll them out into other stores.

Sales are key
Sales are key | Source

Stores can further tailor products by knowing what customers are looking for. If stores can gather customer profiles including age, gender and sex, and follow what they are buying stores can then cater more to those buying habits. Why stock hats for 10 year old boys when your average shopper is a 63 year old woman? Of course if she's a grandma that could change the whole ballgame. By stores keeping track of what that 63 year old woman is buying they can tell whether she's a grandmother or not.

Are you getting the drift here? Seems Big Brother is watching us. It may not be 1984 anymore but all our moves are being tracked one way or another. You know your Internet moves are tracked, now your cell phones, and your shopping habits. There are customer relationship management companies used to track and gather data about your experience with a particular store and/or salesperson. It is important to companies and stores to track your interaction with them. Building and keeping a strong relationship with customers is very important for brick and mortar stores particularly with the challenges the Internet has presented them with. A happy customer means good business. The best way to keep a happy customer is to know they are satisfied with the store and staff and to know what they are doing when they are in the store.

What about security cameras? They may not just be for security anymore. There is a new software that mines data and then will analyze customer density, where shoppers deviate most to when they are present in the store, and track browsing habits. (

Believe it or not Facial Recognition Software is currently being studied in the marketing arena. It is used to identify a shoppers gender and approximate age. It doesn't identify the person but gives the store/retailer a better idea of what customers are looking at and buying. As a matter of fact it is being tried in twenty Family Dollar Stores.

Love to shop
Love to shop | Source

It's all about marketing to a target audience and you can't do that if you don't know your audience. Shoppers are the stores audience. Of course most stores realize the most important shopper is the one who is ready to buy. Stores have found over the years that shoppers are annoyed when they receive advertisements that do not apply to them or they are not interested in. So studying buying habits and groups of buyers helps stores reach their audience.

So back to the beginning of this hub, many businesses are assigning their customers Customer ID numbers. Every transaction you complete using your credit card or store discount card is tracked to your Customer ID Number. This way stores know what you are buying and what your interests are. Over time they have a pretty good profile of the kind of shopper you are and can tailor their merchandise to what you are buying.

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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I like the way you think Deborah!

      Ignugent you are right on both counts! Guess we'll be finding out more and more about ourselves through others.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 5 years ago

      In a way there is positive note that they know what you want but the scary side is that they know your moves. They can control what ads to send you and unknowingly you are letting them control you. Thanks for this useful and intersting hub. :-)

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      Interesting. I have noticed that the coupons that I get when I check out seem to be pretty specific to things I tend to buy, but never really thought about how they do that. Maybe I'll start adding some strange things to my cart just to throw them off the track. : )

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Michele, as the saying goes "they've got you coming and going." Thanks for stopping by and for the thumbs up.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 6 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      You get a store card and they have you. You get coupons in the mail. They know what you buy. It is strange. Great hub. Thumbs up!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Wayne, a perfect example of what's going on. Thanks for the heads up!

      Shyron, I guess we are all aware of it but don't want to think about how deep it goes.

      Bob, I agree. It's scary to know they know so much but we can hope at least it helps US too.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Interesting article on modern trends in marketing. I can only hope that this is beneficial in some way.

      Voted up


    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 6 years ago from Texas

      A very interesting hub. A lot of this information, I was wondering about.

      Thanks for the great hub

    • profile image

      Wayne Craig 6 years ago

      I love the story about Target! They can track you so well, that they can tell based on your buying habits, when your are pregnant and what month you are going to have your baby. So a teenager living with her parents, starts to buy some pre-natal vitamins and such and gets coupons in the mail for baby stuff. Her Father gets the mail and is furious! He don't confront his daughter but goes into store to complain to manager. They cant do anything, so he goes and talks to his daughter, she then admits she is pregnant and so that is worked out and the man went back to the store and apologized! People this is not the first case like this and is probably not the last! We are being tracked in all areas of our lives, be aware!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Au Fait. We always complain about how much "they" know about us, I think it's a good idea to know some of the ways they find out. Thanks for sharing.

      Charmike, glad you enjoyed.

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 6 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Another way that stores track your purchasing habits is via loyalty cards, then they can give you specific offers to try new products or to upsell you. Thanks for the great hub tillsontitan.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 6 years ago from North Texas

      This is a very interesting hub. Everyone should read it and be informed about how their habits are being tracked and used basically to manipulate them in some respects.

      Voted UP, interesting and useful! Also, sharing with my followers here on hubpages and on FB.