With 2015 now in the record books, a look back shows just how busy and…
He was doing the very thing they were researching.
“I took an Uber from my apartment to the car dealership, so that’s a data point. You can see my journey there. You can see the credit card I used. The credit card I used is another data point when I paid for the car repair. Then I drove out to DeKalb for a meeting with Brian. While I was driving, I have the GPS in my phone, I have my I-Pass, so those are more data points,” Eddy said.
When he got there, he even paid with the Starbucks app, which now gave the coffee chain and his bank a bit more information on his travel and purchasing habits and how he likes his latte.
Every movement and transaction of Alex Eddy’s is tracked, monitored and stored to create a digital portrait of who he is. Just like it is for all of us. Eddy and Gillet teach students in the NIU College of Business (where they teach Department of Marketing) not only about how such information is gathered, but more importantly how it can be used as a powerful tool for marketing.
Anyone who has ever looked up a product online only to be inundated with ads for it over the next few weeks knows we’re all tracked online. But Eddy and Gillet say people don’t realize the depth and nuance of this digital portrait you paint of yourself with each latte and Uber ride.
“For a long time, a company would just collect the data and look at it and they would take it at face value. They would take your transactions, they would look at them and take them as, ‘You went to this gas station on this day and you spent $22.59,’ and that transaction is held somewhere for a while and then probably thrown away,” Gillet said.
“But nowadays that transaction itself is put into a database. The database is adding latitude and longitude information, it’s adding time stamp information, it’s adding in information about other associations in terms of what kind of transaction it is, does this fit into the transactional pattern that you have.”
While currently this information is mainly used for marketing, Gillet said a time might come when companies use this information for weightier decisions, like when figuring if you’re a good bet for a mortgage or loan.
“It may actually be that the financial systems start to look at your behaviors on Facebook or through Twitter or just all this other data that’s collected out there about you,” Gillet said.
Eddy said reading the fine print can help you control what information you want out there.
“Be aware of terms and conditions, for example. Those can say a lot about what companies can do with your data,” Eddy said.
Also, people should realize how social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn actually work.
“You aren’t really the user. You’re the product, and you’re being packaged and sold to advertisers,” Eddy said.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Eddy said. It’s a tradeoff. You get a free platform to keep in touch with your friends and family. The digital portrait your online behaviors created is used to suggest products you might like everywhere from Amazon.com to the DeKalb Hy-Vee where Gillet and his wife get groceries.
“Don’t be afraid of that data being collected, but just understand that the data is being collected and that it can have an impact,” Gillet said.