Nowadays, companies are eager to try different methods to attract the attention of customers and make people believe in the necessity to use the products and services of one particular company. However, not all decisions, including tracking customers’ behavior and making some private information known to a wide range of people, are always considered as ethically correct. The situation that takes place in the Target Corporation shows how companies can learn customers’ secrets and how companies can use the information found for and even against their customers.
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The Target Company has tracked customers’ shopping behavior by collecting data at check-out and used the information to gain a particular advertising advantage without even considering the fact that such practice may violate a shopper’s privacy and customers’ further decision to address the company.
The idea to keep track of what customers buy is not new. Still, not many companies actually know how they can use the obtained information. Target is one of the first companies that tried to study customers’ shopping behavior and identify which customers are pregnant (Moylan par. 2). The representatives of the organization believe that in case they can identify pregnant customers in their second trimester, there is a chance to turn them into their regulars for a number of years (Duhigg par. 5).
The analytics of customers’ behavior observe different situations and try to understand the decisions made by customers. They introduce the gathered information so that the marketing department and other departments that take responsibility for work with customers can use it.
However, the nature of the practice developed by Target is controversial, indeed. On the one hand, there are customers who want to leave their information confident. They want to make purchases and believe that all their decisions remain to be private. On the other hand, companies want to demonstrate their care for their customers and provide them with many options regarding their current state of affairs.
Companies learn their customers and try to offer the services and products that can be interesting to them. Still, the dilemma takes place. It may happen that customers want to save information about their pregnancy or other details confident for a certain period of time for a certain group of people. The company may not know about the intentions of their customers and interpret information in the wrong way.
Therefore, the ethical aspect of such a situation is not clear because the offered practice does violate a shopper’s privacy in case the company does not place the required portion of information about its intention to investigate their customers and learn their needs. As a rule, shoppers are aware of the fact that all their actions and shops are recorded by the companies. People have to understand that their decisions and actions are under the observations of the security of the shop. At the same time, people have to realize that their information can be generated at check-out. This practice may be ethically approved if the company informs its customers about the possibility of their private information analysis.
In general, the example of Target proves that not many customers are ready to share their private information with companies. There are situations when customers cannot understand what kind of facts the company may gather about them. Therefore, to avoid numerous ethical dilemmas, it is possible to provide customers with a chance to agree or refuse the idea of using their private information in advertising by the company. In other words, customers should sign an agreement in terms of which the usage of their information by the company is allowed.
Duhigg, Charles. “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” The New York Times Magazine. 2012. Web.
Moylan, Martin. “Target’s Deep Customer Data Mining Raises Eyebrows.” MPRNews. 2012. Web.