Around this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the fever of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales. Along with these two highly publicized annual events come some other aspects of the season that remain behind the scenes. In addition to being inundated with Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Sales [enter shop here], I also can’t help but think about price discrimination, targeted advertising, and customized sales & advertisements.
By now, I’m sure most people who use the internet and mobile devices have some idea that their actions are being tracked and monitored. Whenever this topic comes up in conversation, I’m always surprised at how many people shrug their shoulders and say, I’ve got nothing to hide. What are they going to find? Whether this is true or not, does it make it ok for companies to learn that much about us? To collect data every time we go somewhere or buy something to analyze our habits? To scan our interactions on social media and in email for keywords?
I’ve blogged about these issues before (here and here), but every year it seems that the apps and services get even better at tracking my movements. While I don’t have anything to “hide”, I do have something to protect. And therein lies the difference in the subtle shifts happening to us regarding how we interact with and perceive all these services. The tendency is to perceive tracking/monitoring as a way to catch illegal, criminal, or shady activities. And while this is one reason for tracking and monitoring, it’s also a way for companies to learn more about us. Once armed with this information, companies are then perfectly poised to exploit our vulnerabilities and target us with exactly the right formula to get us to spend money. They learn our spending tolerance (i.e., how much are we willing to spend for…) and then adjust the costs based on our individual price points (also known as “price discrimination”).
Many people enjoy getting customized coupons or advertisements exactly for the products (services) they want to acquire. And in some cases, it can be really useful if you’re waiting for a sale to purchase a particular item, for example. However, I can’t trust the “sale” price I’m seeing, even if it’s at my desired price point.
Convenience always comes with a compromise on control, and it’s important to consider who’s controlling what these days.