Target apparently has built a mathematical model to predict when its female customers are pregnant. The model is accurate enough to give a decent indication of due date, and it’s based on things like past purchases of scent-free soap and cotton balls, says a story in this week’s New York Times Magazine by Charles Duhigg that’s adapted from his book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”
You might marvel at a retailer who knows its customers so well, or you might cringe at yet another Big-Brother intrusion into our privacy.
Regardless, a little habit research into your own customers could provide ways to cement your relationship with them for life — without invading their privacy.
According to Duhigg, researchers have found that when people go through major life changes — graduating, getting married, giving birth, buying a new house, getting a divorce — they’re otherwise firm shopping habits become flexible. It’s at those times in life when it’s important to touch a customer through a promotion, advertisement or direct communication.
“In other words,” Duhigg says, “a precisely timed advertisement, sent to a recent divorcee or new homebuyer, can change someone’s shopping patterns for years.”
OK, so you’re not Target, and women aren’t popping into your store to buy unscented lotion, tipping you off they may be pregnant. But you are collecting birthday, anniversary, graduation and other significant information from your customers, right? (All voluntary, of course.)
Well, here’s all the more evidence you should need to start acting on it with the properly timed ads. Get out there and change some habits!