Feb 6, 2020 - Economy & Business

Retailers are guzzling data just like tech giants

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

Go deeper

Cellphone tracking everywhere

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump administration is using private data to monitor immigration and the border, thanks to a massive database of cellphone records it purchased from private vendors.

Why it matters: Experts are concerned about the scale and use of the data, even if it appears to be on firm legal footing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why Amazon's bigger Go grocery stores matter

An Amazon Go store in Seattle. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

With the opening of its first large-format cashier-less grocery store in Seattle on Tuesday, Amazon is on its way to further expanding its physical footprint across U.S. cities.

The big picture: Amazon’s 2017 purchase of Whole Foods was never the end of its grocery ambitions — or its fight to win a bigger share of the whopping $700 billion per year American grocery industry. With its own network of stores, Amazon could attract shoppers looking for cheaper prices than Whole Foods and dramatically grow its brick-and-mortar reach.

Grocery delivery gets a target market

Reproduced from CivicScience; Note: Not all responses shown; Chart: Axios Visuals

The ideal grocery delivery customer is young and rich, new data from CivicScience shows.

Why it matters: Companies like Amazon and Walmart are investing further in grocery delivery and the data show who their target demographic could be.