Have you ever wondered why the ads on a website always seem to be really relevant to things you are interested in, or have viewed / searched for recently? Normally I tend to see advertisements for things like holidays, financial products or even occasionally food deals.
Recently though I was searching for a present for my wife for her birthday. I was looking at some of her favourite clothes stores to see if I could find something that I thought she might like, or if I failed in that, at least get her an online gift card / voucher.
What was interesting is that for about the next 2 weeks after going to those online clothes stores I was seeing ads on the sides of websites promoting women’s clothing. This isn’t something I had ever had before and despite it really catching my eye, I also caused me to have one of those light bulb moments where I realised why the advertising on this site had changed for me – it was because of what I had been searching for recently on my computer for my wife’s birthday gift.
The same thing is happening not just on websites, but also every time you swipe your rewards cards. Companies are hoovering up all this information about you in order to better target their products at you. The end goal is to get you to buy more stuff – and it works!
It also seems that the more we embrace technology, the more information companies can learn about us. I was just reading about how it’s possible for companies to use the GPS tracking in your car to learn more about you. I’m not sure how they would use that information, but I know it would have value to someone.
Now I’m not saying that this is bad, in fact, I think it can be a good thing, provided you have good willpower and you don’t mind companies targeting products at you. I know from personal experience that I tend to get all sorts of promotional material, both in my email, and the normal post which are based on the things I have been recently purchasing. Sometimes it’s great and really helpful because I am shown great deals that I would have otherwise missed, and other times I’m just not interested and can get a bit sick of all the junk mail.
The main point I wanted to make though is that companies love your data and they are willing to pay big bucks to get access to it. Just make sure that you are aware of how easily this data is being harvested and that there are both advantages and disadvantages of it.