Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the past few years you will have had an experience of being directly targeted by a company keen to sell you its wares.
From Google AdWords to SMS text messaging, Facebook and LinkedIn profiling, somebody somewhere has information that they think you would like to know about. You in particular. Yes… you.
Content, deemed to be of an appropriate nature (depending on how you classify appropriate) is constantly being pushed in your direction. Sometimes the methods are subtle and timely, sometimes they have a distinctly spray and pray feel to them (think CPP for example).
To the uninitiated it may seem serendipitous that their clubcard vouchers just happen to include many of their favourite items. Others however, might be under the impression that they are being stalked and they would be right.
With the advent of Big Data (more about that in a moment) unless we shy away from corporate chains and never buy anything over the internet, we are being tracked. From our selection of friends and groups on Facebook, through to regular searches and our purchase history, the minutiae of our daily life is fast becoming of serious value to big businesses, but why?
Because by boiling down data about what we like to buy and when, they can produce a seductive list of items primed to get us whipped into a shopping frenzy.
You can’t halt progress. Tell the guy who invented the wheel that his design is going to cost the jobs of many of his peers working in the fields because of his quicker, more efficient methods. Is he going to put his new favourite toy that has saved him hours of back breaking work back in the shed? I doubt it.
History is full of examples of sabotage and suspicion about new-fangled devices (at least that’s what I can recall from a particularly dull history lesson featuring a spinning Jenny). It’s a harsh fact of life that once progress arrives it’s here to stay, seeping its way into the system and changing things irrevocably. Those that embrace that fact and use it to their advantage do well.
The luddites may try to turn back time but will probably only end up frustrated in the end, although they have my blessing to try.
And the next new-fangled device on the block? Big Data. First of all, what the heck is it? Well, given the continuous improvements in technology supercomputers are now, more than ever, capable of processing and analysing vast stores of data.
The analysing bit is key. Jobs that would give even the most mentally astute months of work not to mention a BIG headache can now be done in a nanosecond.
This means that large supermarkets could realistically zero in on individuals, perhaps within a certain geographical area and identify who has announced the birth of a child recently (information obtained from Facebook, Twitter etc), before then sending bulk SMS messages with a plethora of offers from their baby care range to these carefully targeted customers.
Of course once you are in store, you are fairly likely to buy more than just the items you went in for and before you know it, you’ve done a full weekly shop.
The good thing in all of this though, is that once this becomes fully established standard practice, businesses will be vying for our attention. And whilst corporate greed may be one thing that is driving innovation in this direction, we are all set to benefit, particularly in matters of health.
Imagine a computer so powerful it could analyse your DNA, environment and eating habits and tell you that that glass of wine you are about to have will cause you (that’s you again!) serious problems when you hit age 66.
By all means go ahead and have it, it’s your choice, but at least it’s an informed one!