Feb 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Retailers are guzzling data just like tech giants

An illustration of a digital hand grabbing a shopping bag

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Much of the debate around data privacy has centered on the tech giants that are collecting consumer data, but retailers are formidable data guzzlers, too.

Why it matters: The places we shop track us in stores and online and use those troves of data to get us to spend more money. "I think it would be wise if everyone stopped thinking of retailers as retailers and started thinking of them as tech companies," Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, tells Axios.

Driving the news: Setting itself apart from other retailers, "IKEA is overhauling its data collection practices to let customers shop in privacy," Halie LeSavage writes in the newsletter Retail Brew.

  • "IKEA customers will be able to decide whether the company can use their on-site browsing history and past purchases to inform targeted ads and product recommendations on IKEA’s app."
  • "IKEA will post messages throughout its website reminding customers to edit their data preferences."

The big picture: IKEA's move may draw some privacy-conscious shoppers away from its competitors, but the vast majority of retailers have no intention of halting their data collection. In fact, they're racing against one another to learn even more information about their customers.

  • We've invited Amazon into our homes with smart speakers and doorbells — and it can use all of the data collected through those devices to get smarter about what we want to buy.
  • Walmart is piloting a grocery delivery service through which it sends an associate into your home who stocks your fridge for you.
  • A Target spokesperson told WSJ: “When we know more about our guests, we can provide them with customized offers and make their shopping experience easier and more convenient."
  • On top of that, retailers' hunger for data has spurred the founding of a host of startups that are exclusively focused on infusing more tech into shopping.

Go deeper: How Amazon Go tracks you around its store

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