It has happened to a lot of us. Whether you’re in the store on the hunt for sports apparel or the perfect batch of brownie ice cream (or both, we all contain multitudes), it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to come home with your shopping bags only to see targeted ads for the very items you just purchased. So what’s happening here?

By now it’s no secret that a number of companies are finding brand new ways to engage with consumer activity in order to sell better targeted ads. Some suspect that the apps on their phone must be listening in on their conversations about lululemon apparel and while this is definitely a possibility, there is a much more likely culprit — your bank.

Your bank has a record of everything you’ve purchased and it is perfectly legal for them to share some of that information as long as they stay within certain parameters. It’s all part of a plan to ensure the ads you see on a regular basis are relevant to what you actually want to buy. And who wouldn’t want that?

Well, a lot of people. It has become expected for your cookies to be tracked for the purposes of targeted advertisement when online, but the knowledge that your purchasing information is also being sold when you shop at a brick-and-mortar store can be unsettling for many.

So what can you do? You always have the option to opt out of this type of marketing when you sign with a bank, but in a world where everyone lies about reading the terms and conditions, most don’t know how their consumer data is being shared with various companies. And not all banks are transparent. While some let you know what you can opt out of when it comes to sharing your data, many make it difficult to find out what they’re letting other businesses have access to. If this concerns you, it’s best to reach out to your bank and see what your options are for keeping your data private. But depending on where you shop, some businesses could still gain access to your offline shopping data.

Whole Foods Has Its Eye On You

Amazon acquiring Whole Foods raised a lot of eyebrows. What does a former virtual bookstore turned powerful online retailer have to do with groceries? Well if most theories are right, it has less to do with wanting to improve the grocery shopping experience and a lot more to do with targeted ads. By tracking what you’re purchasing in the high-end grocery chain, Amazon circumvents the need to purchase your information from a bank by having direct access to your shopping data. As a result, when you are online shopping on Amazon, they would be better equipped to show you ads and deals based on what you’re actually interested in.

But is this really as sinister as everyone seems to believe? After all, if you are a Prime member of Amazon, you do get some bang for all 119 of your bucks. In addition to a discount at Whole Foods, you also have the perks of free two-day shipping and access to the Prime library of TV shows and movies. In some locations, you can even get your groceries delivered right to your door. Some are lauding this business merger as a big boon to the grocery industry. If you’re in that camp, you may be excited about this new venture of big online retailers pairing up with stores in your neighborhood. Others are more wary, citing how this is just another step in how privacy is now diminishing for the sake of targeted ad marketing.

What do you think? Are you okay with banks and businesses tracking your shopping habits if that means you get a better ad and consumer experience? If you’re on the fence and you want to learn more about marketing and its influence on consumers, check out our other blog articles on the subject.

Trina Dunn – Content Creator

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