Coupons Know Lots About You, and They Tell

For decades, shoppers have taken advantage of coupons. Now, the coupons are taking advantage of the shoppers.

A new breed of coupon,  printed from the Internet or sent to mobile phones, is packed with information about the customer who uses it. While the coupons look standard, their bar codes can be loaded with a startling amount of data, including identification about the customer, Internet address, Facebook page information and even the search terms the customer used to find the coupon in the first place.

And all that information follows that customer into the mall. For example, if a man walks into a Filene’s Basement to buy a suit for his wedding and shows a coupon he retrieved online, the company’s marketing agency can figure out whether he used the search terms “Hugo Boss suit” or “discount wedding clothes” to research his purchase (just don’t tell his fiancée).

Coupons from the Internet are the fastest-growing part of the coupon world — their redemption increased 263 percent to about 50 million coupons in 2009, according to the coupon-processing company Inmar. Using coupons to link Internet behavior with in-store shopping lets retailers figure out which ad slogans or online product promotions work best, how long someone waits between searching and shopping, even what offers a shopper will respond to or ignore.

The coupons can, in some cases, be tracked not just to an anonymous shopper but to an identifiable person: a retailer could know that Amy Smith printed a 15 percent-off coupon after searching for appliance discounts at Ebates.com on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and redeemed it later that afternoon at the store.

Read the rest of this article in The New York Times here

Annonser

Web Coupons And The End Of Privacy

As another indication of the transition to a publicy-based society, web-based coupons carry a whole lot of information abou the person that found and printed those coupons:

Stephanie Clifford, Web Coupons Know Lots About You, And They Tell

Coupons from the Internet are the fastest-growing part of the coupon world — their redemption increased 263 percent to about 50 million coupons in 2009, according to the coupon-processing company Inmar. Using coupons to link Internet behavior with in-store shopping lets retailers figure out which ad slogans or online product promotions work best, how long someone waits between searching and shopping, even what offers a shopper will respond to or ignore.

The coupons can, in some cases, be tracked not just to an anonymous shopper but to an identifiable person: a retailer could know that Amy Smith printed a 15 percent-off coupon after searching for appliance discounts at Ebates.com on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and redeemed it later that afternoon at the store.

“You can really key into who they are,” said Don Batsford Jr., who works on online advertising for the tax preparation company Jackson Hewitt, whose coupons include search information. “It’s almost like being able to read their mind, because they’re confessing to the search engine what they’re looking for.”

While companies once had a slim dossier on each consumer, they now have databases packed with information. And every time a person goes shopping, visits a Web site or buys something, the database gets another entry.

“There is a feeling that anonymity in this space is kind of dead,” said Chris Jay Hoofnagle, director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology’s information privacy programs.

The coupons can be devised in ways that circumvent a ad service’s efforts to make information anonymized. By creating specific URLs for different searches, an advertizer or coupon provider can triangulate a mouseclick back to a specific person or at least specific IP addresses if and when they take definable actions.

Read the rest of this article at Stowe Boyds blogg here

The future of shopping: What happens when walls start talking

Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell

Last weekend I wrote about how the big social gaming companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on Facebook and MySpace through games like Farmville and Mobsters. Major media can’t stop applauding the companies long enough to understand what’s really going on with these games.

The real story isn’t the business success of these startups. It’s the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success.

In short, these games try to get people to pay cash for in game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience. Which is fine. But for users who won’t pay cash, a wide variety of “offers” are available where they can get in-game currency in exchange for lead gen-type offers. Most of these offers are bad for consumers because it confusingly gets them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash (there are notable exceptions, but the scammy stuff tends to crowd out the legitimate offers). And it’s also bad for legitimate advertisers.

Read the full article  in TechCrunch here

Zynga’s Gaming Gamble

In late September a sizzling San Francisco Web gaming company called Zynga took the cloak off its latest creation: an online game that lets people open virtual restaurants on their Facebook pages. Competitors vie for points by tending to pseudo-stoves and cranking out orders of cheeseburgers and chunky fruit salads for animated customers.

It’s no joke. Within a week 4 million people daily were grilling and chopping in Zynga’s Café World. By late October 21 million foodies had played the game. Most critically for Zynga, a good number of them (Zynga won’t say how many) were forking over real cash to decorate their virtual restaurants and buy provisions.

This formula has worked many times over for Zynga and its founder, Mark Pincus, a floppy-haired Internet entrepreneur who named the company after his now-deceased bulldog. Zynga created the current top three most popular games on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, according to media tracker Developer Analytics. They include the wildly popular FarmVille, a venue for city slickers to nurture virtual crops and livestock, and Mafia Wars, an outlet for buying guns and ordering hits on enemies.

Read the full artickle in Forbes here

Google DC Talks: The Future of the Internet

The Death of the Open Web

The Web is a teeming commercial city. It’s haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seems to dominate major sites.

People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.

Read the rest of this, to become, classic commentary by Virginia Feffernan writing for New York Times.

The Death of the Open Web