Behavior targeting - How Target knew about customer's pregnancy before her own Father knew about it

Behavioral analysis is becoming a new tool in the hands of marketers. According to this NYT story, Target's statistician received a brief from the marketing department “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”. 

After analyzing the voluminous data that Target collects, the trends that he observed were that Pregnant ladies tended to

  • Buy large quantities of unscented lotions
  • In the first 20 weeks, pregnant ladies loaded up on supplements like Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc
  • Buy Hand sanitizers
  • Buy Extra bags of cotton balls

 He came up with a "Pregnancy Prediction score" which would analyze shopping data and predict when the shopper is due.  Target would then use this data to send out promotional material to the shoppers.

One day a man walked into Target and yelled angrily at the Manager. He was furious that Target was sending coupons of cribs, maternity clothing and baby clothes to his High school daughter. The manager apologized and agreed to look into the matter. When he called back after a few days to apologize again the father sheepishly acknowledged that his daughter is indeed pregnant.

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