Duhigg explores how companies gear their marketing towards people based on the personal information they collect. He managed to speak with Andrew Pole, statistician at Target, about the retailer’s predictive analysis and how the company found a way to market to mothers in their second trimester. A disturbing anecdote from the piece explains how Target knew about a young woman’s pregnancy before her father did.
Among the many insights in the story is that Target “assigns each shopper a unique code—known internally as the Guest ID number—that keeps tabs on everything they buy,” writes Duhigg. And you thought Big Brother was the government.
Pole, the Target statistician, told Duhigg:
“If you use a credit card or a coupon, or ï¬ll out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an email we’ve sent you or visit our website, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID. We want to know everything we can.”
(Pole eventually clammed up, probably immediately after Target’s PR department got wind of his conversations with the media.)
Duhigg explains the demographic information linked to the Guest ID, which we’ve organized into this handy list: