That Feeling of Being Watched

“Who’s watching me?”. The question you ask yourself as you casually window-shop in the high street and suddenly discover the item you searched for online last night staring at you with the word SALE above it.

With online retailers rapidly growing and brick-and-mortar on a precipitous decline, retailers that rely on footfall should begin to think differently, and even put their heads in the cloud. It’s no secret that 99% of the actions you take whilst browsing the net are recorded in some way or another, which leads to many conspiracy theories. Can the Government predict my every move? Are big-tech companies using Big Data to create a huge database of human experience? Is my “data-self” corrupted because I accidentally read a gossip article last year?

Instead of delving into what-ifs, it is far more interesting to delve into the how-so’s. Thanks to the growth of eCommerce and the digital world as a whole, “Who’s watching me?” has a very simple answer, and one which is far from coincidence.

Predicting the Future

Firstly, let’s take a very simple look at where online shopping analytics may come from, and how things trend in the cyber world:

  • Potential source 1: If a user (that’s you) searches Egyptian Cotton Bed-sheets on a store’s website, this gives the search result a “hit”. The more “hits” a product has, the higher the amount of unique people have searched for it.
  • Potential source 2: If a user (again, you!) posts a picture of a pair of designer jeans on Instagram, and hashtags it #designerjeans #dowant, this is now public information. Instagram keeps a record of hashtags throughout the day, easily allowing everyone – including retailers – to see what is trending.
  • Potential source 3: If a user (yep…) goes onto Google and searches for local Taylor Swift concerts… you guessed it – logged. You also guessed it – this information is publicly available via tools such as Google Trends

The list of potential sources is endless, and the more that are used in analyses, the more accurate a company can predict what is in demand.

Keeping Score

Now, we should think of all of these popular hits and trending search terms as if they were on an oversized scorecard. The more popular the searched product, the higher the score. With this scorecard knowledge and a bit of techy know-how, retailers are quickly able to establish what is currently in fashion (what’s topping the scorecard), what is about to be in fashion (what’s climbing the scorecard quickly) and what is going out of fashion (what’s dropping down the scorecard). Chances are the item you searched for last night was also searched by thousands of other potential buyers. One quick corporate meeting and some in-store item movements later, your search result appears in front of your very eyes in the town centre.

So maybe you shouldn’t ask questions such as “Who’s watching me?”. Maybe you’re just perfectly in-step with the latest trends.

Patrick Panebianco

Author Patrick Panebianco

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