Graduate Blog / Graduate Life

Brands are Watching: Lessons from Marketing Analytics

For the first class of my spring elective, Marketing Analytics with Dr. Abdul Ali, we had to read an article by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. In the article, he reveals how Target can predict your buying habits. As I dug deeper into the method Target uses and progressed through the course, I realized that everything you are buying off the internet right now is a bunch of algorithms telling you, you need that product and this is the best deal you will get.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

The secret to getting the right price on Amazon: Sometimes you don’t know whether Amazon is the best place to buy a new laptop. Does Best Buy have a better deal? So you look up a laptop on Amazon for specifications and shut your tab thinking you will go to Best Buy and see their offers. You don’t end up visiting a Best Buy so, 2 days later you visit Amazon and shut it one more time. Now you have decided, “this is it, I am buying my laptop today” and you are back on Amazon. And what do you see? A newer discounted price!

Amazon keeps a track of your search history and knows if you are price sensitive and undecided about a product. To entice you to purchase on the site, it will discount the product. has built a website, Keepa that tracks prices and tells you if you are seeing the best deal or you’ve missed it. So next time you are sure you want to order something on, don’t just go and purchase it. Maybe shut your tab a few times.

Eating at Chipotle and shopping at Banana Republic? You probably live in Brookline: AC Nielsen, one of the biggest research agencies, has conducted numerous surveys and analyzed consumer behavior across the US to identify what kind of customer lives in each zip code. Nielsen has segmented the data and identified customer types like young digerati, urban elders, cosmopolitans and many more. Look up your zip code and find out what kind of neighborhood you are living in. Companies purchase this data and identify their customer segment, target their ads and position their products exactly how you would want them.

If you’ve switched, they are coming for you: Ended up buying Tide instead of Surf this weekend? And did you swipe one of those loyalty cards while checking out? Marketing managers at Unilever know that you have switched and will find out which brand you switched to and what made you switch. Data collected by the store through your loyalty card is sent directly to companies. Companies then create a brand loyalty matrix and map customer purchases to identify loyalty. Now that you’ve made the switch, Unilever is going to send discount coupons in your mail, e-mail you why Surf is better for your fabrics and leave you with a refreshing smell. And you will start to think, maybe Surf is not that bad and you just bought Tide this one time because of an offer you saw. Now it’s Tide’s turn to convince you.

The good thing about companies collecting all this data: that you are probably getting tailor-made deals and better prices. How far they go with collecting data is the scary part.