On Target - Can You Guess Who I Am?
think you know a person by what she buys? Think again. I for one appear on the subscriber files of publications from House & Garden and Vogue to Fortune, The Wall Street Journal and Dog Fancy. An avid catalog and Web shopper, lately I've bought furniture, household goods, gifts, kids' clothes and baby items. I also shop the 'Net for books and music (recent CD purchases include the Backstreet Boys, Dave Matthews Band and Faith Hill). Plus, my husband and I like to research and book vacations online.
So who am I? Can you tell my age by my music purchases? You'd probably be wrong if you guessed. What about my other buying habits? You might, for instance, think I'm expecting a child. No, but I have recently made purchases from The Right Start and Baby Gap as gifts for my sister's baby.
And you won't be able to put all these data together into a tidy package to paint a picture of who I am, because I use different last names in my home and work life. Also, since I want to track who's using my data, I employ a variety of "code names" when I do business with direct merchants both online and offline. I'm not alone in being less than truthful: At least 24 percent of people lie about personal details online, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Projects (Business Week e.biz, April 16).
While we all want to reach the right customers with the right products at the right time, data can be misleading. Some of the subscriptions were gifts to me; I've never had the time nor inclination to read an issue all the way through. Even transactional data are imperfect: A good number of the items I bought through catalogs or online were for others, not myself.