business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that online retailers may be adjusting their offers depending on who is shopping, from where, at what time of day, and using what service.

“It means a woman with a high-speed Internet connection in the South may get a flat-rate shipping offer from a retailer like, while a male counterpart in the West may see a promotion for live customer service instead,” the Journal writes. “Some who logged on to through AOL may be teased with a first-time buyer discount while someone who accessed the site directly would be left perkless. And someone using the word ‘cheap’ while searching for gift baskets using Google may be surprised with a free shipping deal at a gourmet-food retailer like”

Naturally, e-retailers don’t admit what they’re doing. “While sophisticated promotional targeting has been possible for years, it is becoming more widely available, with some analysts estimating that up to half of online retailers are using it,.” the WSJ writes. “With new e-commerce platforms, companies are turning to it to stay competitive. Retailers say the promotions are more based on science than psychology; they choose which offers to target to whom based on real-time testing of what is most effective. The offers that generate the most sales stick..”

Privacy advocates say they are worried by the implications…but e-retailers say that shopping and personal data is never shared with other companies.
KC's View:
Privacy concerns are important, but we think that a lot of people don’t worry about them…because these new technologies allow them to be targeted in ways that are relevant. Their time isn’t wasted, their money is saved, and it ends up being a win-win for everyone.

The big question is whether brick-and-mortar stores can find ways to target customers that are equally effective. Because we think they have to.