Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Aisles Have Eyes

The Aisles Have Eyes by Joseph Turow
Yale University Press: 1/17/17
eBook review copy; 344 pages
ISBN-13: 9780300212198

The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power by Joseph Turow is very highly recommended.

It should be no surprise to consumers today how our purchases and interests are being tracked. What may surprise you is the extent of that tracking and the potential information the retail stores can and are gathering. Turow explains how retail stores are entering a new, hypercompetitive era with internet sellers. The brick-and-mortar stores will succeed only if they figure out how to trace, quantify, profile, and discriminate among shoppers. Stores now have the ability to track our movements and capture data about us through what we carry - our smart phones, bluetooth devices, fitbits, tablets, etc. If you have the GPS on your smart phone turned on, chances are you are also being tracked. The goal is to track our movements and what we buy, and then score our attractiveness as consumers based on that information. I would imagine almost all of us have noticed the personalized discounts often linked to our store rewards cards.

After providing background information on the history of retail stores, Turow moves into the advances in recent years, such as online stores like Amazon, and the emergence of Wal-Mart, a store with a super-efficient ability to send merchandise to stores for the continuous ability to restock items quickly. Even though these two retail giants can be much abased by some camps, they are the future of retail stores where the goal is now to find your niche or a way to stay competitive, thus profiling customers, collecting data, tracking their movements, and maybe even using facial recognition software to collect information about each individual who shops at your store. Think about this bit of information: "Acxiom executive Phil Mui claimed that 'for every consumer we have more than 5,000 attributes of customer data.'" The ultimate question is how much of this will consumers put up with this invasion of privacy and profiling of each customer before they decide enough is enough.

As Turow provides the background information and the extent that the retail community is using current technology to track us and get us to buy products by personalizing coupons or discounts.  This is a well-written, thoroughly researched, accessible account of the future of shopping and provides startling insights about the prevalence of data collecting on individual consumers. The text includes extensive notes and an index.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

No comments: