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Big Data Gets Personal, Moving Past the Point of No Return

Retailers know exactly who you are and what you buy ... and you'd better get used to it

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It’s official. The world’s largest retailer has become a digital Orwellian Big Brother, keeping tabs on what you buy online, and using a cache of so-called “big data” to suggest future purchases.

Source: Flickr | Flickr

No, we’re not talking about Amazon (AMZN). Although it’s the world’s biggest e-commerce player, consumers have pretty much conceded any expectation of privacy when shopping on Amazon. We aren’t talking about Google (GOOGL) either, which essentially tracks everything you do online and has come to symbolize the idea of big data.

We’re talking about the world’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer, Walmart (WMT). The behemoth is personalizing its homepage to suit each shopper, not only displaying that customer’s local weather forecast, but to recommend purchases based on that shopper’s past purchases, and even that user’s past searches.

The consequences of this news aren’t anything particularly dramatic … and that’s the scary part.

Walmart has been in the big data business for a while, but is now putting its data collection to blatant commercial use. But now that consumers are quite used to being profiled, poked and prodded online, however, news of the Monday’s new online sales approach was largely dismissed. It’s a subtle clue that most folks have given up on not being a well-defined target customer.

Score another win for big data.

A Drop in the Digital Profiling Bucket

The overhaul for the Walmart website, which serves as an information page for its stores as well as an entry page to its online shopping portal, won’t take effect until the beginning of next year, but there’s little doubt it will boost sales even more than they’ve already been boosted for the retailer.

Last fiscal year, Walmart managed to pump up its e-commerce revenue by 30%, reaching $10 billion. That’s only a tiny fraction of the company’s total sales of $476 billion. But, the migration of consumers — all consumers — from in-stores to online is both undeniable and unstoppable. The decision from Walmart is just good business.

To be clear, however, it’s not like Walmart is the only company out there getting a little bit too nosy with its marketing efforts, getting presumptuous if not downright predictive. The aforementioned Google and Amazon have been digging into your personal life for years, not only keeping a big data file of your shopping and browsing activity on their sites, but looking at all of your browsing history in order to customize the ads and offers you see.

It goes well beyond Amazon and Google, though, and it’s not just for advertising purposes…

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Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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