As you may know, big data and predictive modeling are getting pretty darn good at predicting the brands or products an individual might want to buy. It is not hard to imagine a day (perhaps not not too far into the future) where retailers are so good at predicting that they know what we want or need before we do. Target stores already knows what brand of shampoo a customer buys — and that they buy it once a month. So what if they just placed an order for us and shipped it out? Would people be interested in this service?
Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein was curious. So he commissioned a survey and asked people. He appears surprised to discover that about a third of American consumers would be comfortable with stores sending us stuff it thought we wanted. You can read the details of his study in “Shopping Made Psychic” (New York Times, August 20, 2014).
I don’t think we are too far from very accurate systems that will predict our needs and wants. What are the implications of that for retail stores? What about consumer privacy?