Charles Duhigg writes here that methods of predicting and manipulating the habits of shoppers have drastically changed over the past decade or two. We’ve gone from an age where retailers used psychologists to get into the heads of customers, to the computer age, where statisticians armed with computers can pretty much get inside your head; making themselves right at home there.
Based on what you buy in a store they know if you are changing jobs, moving, getting married, divorced, or have a baby on the way. In fact, some retailers have it down to such a science that they can tell which trimester of pregnancy a woman is in based on which items she buys.
How do they know all this? Because of the personal information we hand over when we use our membership cards, store credit cards and the coupons they send us in the mail. All some stores need is just your name and zip code and they can easily find out your address, if you rent or own a house, have filed for bankruptcy, are married, single, etc. They buy this data through public information brokers and once you are a customer with a card they can begin building your profile. All of this information is used to determine what your current buying habits are now and what they will likely be in the future, sometimes before you even know yourself.
Because of the competition between retailers, they know the importance of being able to cater to our individual needs/habits rather than attempting to make generalizations about us using old school psychology methods. So when they analyze the data each of us gives them while shopping; individual profiles are developed that enable organizations we deal with to advertise to us exclusively, based on our specific tastes through the mail. All of this is done without us noticing what they know about our lives.
Now let’s talk a bit about familiarity! Did you know that you could be tricked into voluntarily listening to music you really don’t like? Ever wonder how many people could be tricked into eating organ meats when they hate them? Well… it all goes back to that familiarity thing. Even the United States Government knows that they can get you to do something new and different in your life so long as they dress it up in old habits, otherwise known as familiarity.
Stores will draw your attention to new products buy putting them in an advertisement with a bunch of products you’re already familiar with. New foods can be introduced into your diet by making them look, smell and taste like foods you willingly eat already. The Radio stations make unpopular songs popular by slipping them in between familiar ones. The fitness industry knows that you’ll stay with a gym if they can get you to bring, or at least, make friends. Dress something new up in those friendly and familiar existing habits you already have and, “Everyone is good to go!”