Consumer's Reader: Your big data as a consumer can predict what you need.

Rubric: Consumer’s Reader

In the previous publication, “Your personal data is a treasure for the online business.”, from our “Consumer Reader” we talked about the way consumers’ personal data can be used online and we opened the topic of big data.

Modern technological developments enable the business big data collection from users in the online space, to become more and more detailed, to process bigger and bigger volumes of data and to make more and more precise forecasts for consumer behaviour.

For example, online traders are increasingly well informed about your personal preferences and choices, in some cases they know even better than you what you need. Such forecasts are for example:

  • Nowcasting – predicting for today, for the near future and for the recent past (in the economy). Example: Business noticed from the traffic data that another social media application suddenly became very popular.
  • Predictive analyses – for example, when a business uses analyses to identify a high probability for a user who purchased product X in the last month will also buy product Y. This method of analysis is part of the big data analysis.

You will say, "Why do we need to predict the present and even more the recent past? If you live in Kansas, where a tornado can form very quickly and sweep hundreds of houses, nowcasting can save your life. It is used in meteorology and also in economics. Nowcasting makes forecasts for future changes in the GDP of the countries and on the basis of them central banks make decisions for their short-term and long-term fiscal policy.

If you are a fan of cinema, you may remember the movie “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise, where the immediate behaviour of each person was predicted. Doesn't it remind you of nowcasting? A similar thing happened in the last season of “Westworld”, on HBO, in which a super computer called Rehoboam, based on predictive analyses, accurately predicted the future of people and determined their fates.

Let’s get back to reality, though. It turns out that methods such as nowcasting and predictive analyses have an impact on consumer behaviour. This has pros and cons. You can be offered the cup you're looking for at a very good price and buy it for a bargain. You can find the home of your dreams right now when you're looking for a place to live. You can go on vacation super lucrative because the analysis has shown the travel agency that you're looking at pictures from that exotic place you never decide to go to because it’s not in budget range. The moment there’s a big promotion trip, your tourist agency’s bidding it, and you're the happiest person in the world, because finally you can fulfil your wish- yours and your family.

But, in some situations, these predictions can be used for the so-called dark patterns, to people who are vulnerable.

Dark patterns are user interfaces that are designed in such a way as to have a negative impact on the consumers and push them make a purchase decision that does not always benefit them.

If your husband comes home with a football bought online in the office, influenced by the World Football Championships, currently underway and the persistently attacking ad on his favourite sports site, and then it turns out that he has no intention of training with it, e.g. this acquisition is totally unnecessary for the family lifestyle, don't scold him too much- he fell innocent victim of the dark patterns. Remember when you were browsing on your phone, while watching that show on the computer and bought a lipstick, just like the one the main character had. Then your friends said it looked weird, but it’s not that bad, and you stopped wearing it. Blame it on the  dark pattern from the phone app. 

These two hypotheses are just amusing examples, but really, one must be vigilant online, instead of making impulse purchases or agreeing to the use of personal information without reading the details.

Keep track for the next publication in “Consumer Reader” rubric, where we will tell what is personalisation and how it can harm or help consumers. Follow us in LinkedIn and Facebook as well as in our NEWS page on to better protect your wallet and interests as a consumer.

Published on 19.06.2020 Back to news