Do you use coupons when you go to the grocery store? I do. I’m not one of those “extreme couponers” who spend hours each week collecting coupons to save hundreds of dollars; however, I do what I can to save a few dollars here and there.

Recently I read an article in the October issue of Quirks magazine pertaining to data collection among retailers, and how companies use the information they collect to target future purchases. Specifically, the article discussed the feelings of Millennials (those ages 18-36) on this particular subject. As a Millennial myself, it got me thinking about how stores are collecting data on me through my shopping habits.

When I moved to New Jersey over five years ago, I signed up for a ShopRite Price Plus Card. Every week, ShopRite selects certain items to be on sale for Price Plus card holders. I thought this was a great idea: now, I wouldn’t have to spend time collecting coupons, and I would save money. Also, every time I purchased groceries and scanned my Price Plus Card, I received a handful of additional coupons.

At first, these coupons were for new products on the market or items the grocery store was trying to push out to the general consumer. I’d generally take a quick glance at them as I was walking out of the store and then toss them out when I got home. However, as ShopRite began learning what products I was purchasing over time through the use of my Price Plus Card, the coupons became more targeted towards my specific needs and purchase habits.

ShopRite’s growing awareness of my preferences became more and more apparent as the discounts I was offered became more and more specific. Interestingly, these discounts even went beyond ShopRite’s product base: every now and then I would receive discount coupons for store like Sports Authority (maybe it was those protein bars I had purchased that gave ShopRite the idea I was into fitness and health… and thus a prime target for Sports Authority).

A few months ago, I started purchasing baby food at ShopRite. After a few weeks of buying rice cereal, not only did I begin receiving coupons for baby food, but I also began receiving coupons for discounts off Carter’s kids clothing. By now, it had become especially apparent to me how much data ShopRite was collecting on me through my rewards card, and using this information to target my coupon output towards other stores I may be interested in shopping at.

I believe this concept is genius for stores and their marketing efforts. It also speaks to why teams like the Washington Nationals are implementing “smart card”-type systems. The more a business (or team) knows about its customers, the more that property can better meet those customers’ needs (and, hopefully, increase their spending!).

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