Amazon continues to grow its presence beyond traditional e-commerce with its acquisition of iRobot, maker of the Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner, and One Medical, a primary care provider. These moves follow Amazon’s acquisition of Ring, makers of the doorbell/camera home security system. Critics warn that Amazon is acquiring more personal data on customers without their complete understanding or consent.
The point of data collection in marketing is to elevate the marketer within the buyer decision process, eliminating the customer’s consideration of competitors or enactment of certain stages of the process. In short, the marketer wants the customer to make fast, favorable choices in its behalf.
The buyer decision process has five stages:
- Problem/need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase decision
- Post-purchase behavior
Amazon has created a marketing eco-system where customers can enact their decision process and complete all stages with speed and satisfaction. The company uses the big data it acquires on customers to develop predictive analytics—in short, knowing what people will want in advance based on past choices and recommending future purchases with this knowledge.
Concerns about data privacy hinge on how Amazon tracks customers. A compendium of clicks on the Amazon site is the original way the company built its predictive analytics. The premise became more intimate with Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant that listens and speaks. Is Alexa eavesdropping on us? (And if you’re Google, the worry becomes “Is Alexa transforming into the preferred search engine?”)
Ring and iRobot give Amazon additional footholds in the household augmenting the omnipresent (and hopefully not omniscient) Echo speaker, the portal to Alexa. Ring is a closed-circuit TV network that stores recordings in the cloud. The Roomba vacuum maps a customer’s home as it scuttle about, making it more efficient in their primary function but sucking up more personal information about the owner.
Health data comprises people’s most personal information, and this is the trove entrusted to Amazon with its move into primary care. The promise is better patient outcomes, most apparent in efficient prescription service and and availability of telehealth, two tech-based offerings that play to Amazon’s strengths. Would a spectrum of collected data lead to diagnoses through predictive analytics? Would this be desirable or ethical? Would Amazon make product recommendations based on a person’s medical history? Would this be welcomed or frightening? (Or merely aggravating if I keep getting views of low-calorie and sugar-free foods after my latest BMI and cholesterol reports?)
I am an Amazon customer and marketer. I have happily bought products from the company upon recommendation and signed up for recurrent purchases of certain items, circumventing future use of the buyer decision process in these cases. As an author, I sell my books on Amazon and would be delighted to sell more because they were recommended to readers based on their past purchases. All this requires Amazon to “think ahead.”
Luke 12:2-3 NIV
 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
Is data collection a boon or a threat in marketing? Is there “no going back?”
What happens when data gathered for marketing is used for other purposes? Read this article to learn about software used by law enforcement that can track movements based on data acquired for ad tracking and marketing behaviors.
Does Amazon receive undue attention from critics due to its size? Are all modern marketers engaging in similar practices?
How can Christian marketers use big data to benefit their customers? Identify scripture that advises us against going too far in collecting customer information.