The Future of Personalized Shopping

I came across this NYTimes blog post recently, “Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell” that included the video above and it immediately gave me a whirlwind of thoughts so I decided to jot some of them down.

Business & Consumer Exchange

I love this advancement from a business perspective for making data-driven product recommendations to customers, understanding what products to stock, product placement, identifying customer lifetime value and much, much more.

Minority-report-store
The Minority Report in-your-face customer greeter recognizing and offering product suggestions.

From a consumer standpoint, the increasing display of personalized data will bring about an increased awareness that consumers are creating this data. Individuals and privacy groups will fight for the option to opt out, be anonymized or for consumers to control the data they are producing.

The exchange of information for customer benefit in a physical store is typically viewed as a win-win for businesses and consumers alike.  The information we volunteer goes a long way to help businesses sell us a product or service they offer.  We go into a clothing store and look for some pants and the staff ask us if we would like jeans or khakis, and a loose or tight fit. Then the questions become more personal as they ask for our length and width measurements, and our name to write on the changing room door.  Through this experience we realize that by giving our personal information we are provided with better service and product recommendations that best suit our body type and/or style.

Once we realize that this spoken information could be documented, and our every move recorded by store cameras and our own cell phones could be analyzed and spread across the internet, it will make some feel a bit uncomfortable. Though, I believe, that when we experience the increased benefit that comes from this advanced customization we may not mind.

What Comes Next

The future of technology is tied directly to new avenues for business ventures.  Any technology that removes choices and makes life easier for consumers is the future.  The purchasing process will only get easier in the future because of advancements in predicting buying behaviours, and big data collection and crunching technology. It would be enlightening to see a profile compiled with what products from websites and physical stores you have purchased or showed interest in.  Imagine though, if you could have your own personal shopping service (app, software or website) that made sense of all that data and made smart decisions for you.  It would scan the web based on your preferences for products on websites that ship to your city, offer “free shipping” and “no-hassle returns”, and return suggestions within your usual price range, style preference, brand names and highlight current promotions and sales.

(Scenario 1)
“I’d like to buy a new pair of casual pants
, is all you’d type, say or think and the system would pick up on your keywords and provide you with a list of results based on your personal search parameters across many different online stores.

Now, what if this shopping service tied into your social media accounts, banking and credit card information, LinkedIn, and cell phone GPS location data, and store stock information?  With these connections the service could base recommendations on:
• Photos tagged with your name.
• Photos you post.
• What clothes you typically wear.
• The state of your clothing based on how much you’ve worn them.
• What clothing your friends wear.
• What activities you participate in.
• What kind of clothing is appropriate for the company you work for and the position held.
• What kind of clothing your coworkers are wearing.
• Your available funds.
• Your purchase history.
• Stores closest to you at any given moment.

(Scenario 2)
“Hi Dom – Here are some pants for your approval.”, would be the message that would pop up on your phone with an image of the pants suggested.  You are given two options, ‘Buy’ or ‘Not Now’.  (a) Selecting ‘Buy’ would prompt you to choose to have the pants shipped to you or tell you of a nearby store that has the item ready for you to pick it up. (b) If you say “Not Now” the service could send you an email explaining the data behind it’s decision that now would be a good time to buy.

Currently, we tend to stick to places or websites we usually buy from because it takes time and effort to shop around. It’s only when the perceived benefit (trigger) motivates us enough to put in the increased effort required to perform the task that we will alter our behavior. Fogg Behavior Model

The purchase recommendation service would be the internet working for you and less of the tired, digging through search results, and 15+ websites, foraging for information.  This would remove the difficulty of evaluating different purchasing options across a plethora of businesses to the point of a pro-active suggestion.  Surely, this is in our future.