Target knows you are going to have a baby

Targets knows within a 2-week window when you are going to have a baby.  Even if you haven’t told your parents yet.

Freaked out?

This sounds illegal or invasive or … just something wrong.  When people find out, they get seriously unnerved.

So Target will send coupons to expecting mothers for products that might appeal to them, but they’ll mix in some unrelated coupons for, say, lawn care equipment and supplies.  So she just figures she got lucky.

Reenacting Maggie Simpson’s travails.  From Flickr user Theo Lagendijk.

Shopping habits change at only a few points in a household’s life.  Having a baby is one of those great inflection points.

Big Data

When you hear Big Data as a buzzword, this is exactly what it refers to.  Mining databases with terabytes upon petabytes of information on what consumers are doing, and leveraging that data to gain a quiet advantage.

Charles Duhigg wrote about this new discipline in How Companies Learn Your Secrets in the New York Times recently and his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, shares even more details.

Retailers like Target and Kroger, with its joint venture with data mining company dunnhumby, have staffed up against this opportunity. They are using this data to improve their top and bottom lines — and likely improving their shopper experience while at it.

But there’s many who haven’t gotten there yet.  There are more retail organizations than not that are still starting to learn how to get to Target’s level of sophistication, especially smaller, regional retailers.

Part of the next generation of this targeted marketing will be integrating consumer goods manufacturers’ interests and opportunities. Perhaps creating a bank of marketing goals that can be cross-indexed against retailers’ goals.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and A.T. Kearney released a joint report indicating that consumer goods companies and retailers don’t share information or best practices in merchandising or marketing in any collaborative way yet.  Many manufacturers are experts in their own corner of consumer goods, and have amazing experience to help Target, Kroger, and others market certain categories better.

And given that Target knows you’re going to have a baby, I have no doubt they’ll start leveraging expertise from category experts to figure out when you’re about to have a major life change like getting married or retiring.  Or maybe even if you’re just having a bad day.

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