Silk's Other CI Concern

David Streitfeld at The New York Times' Bits blog comments on Representative Edward Markey's (D-MA) letter to Amazon. Streitfeld says:

But if you use the tablet to post reviews of Italian restaurants on Yelp, Amazon would merely collect that data, bundle it with the fact that a lot of customers in your community seemed to be favorably reviewing Italian restaurants, and then strike a deal with one restaurant to offer discounts, which it would e-mail to you. Some customers might feel tracked; others might not even notice.

David's example is certainly worthy of consideration. Building a database of targeted offers and triggered campaigns from aggregated browse behavior is one way for Amazon to extract value from Silk. It's clearly a striking example for privacy advocates, but it's not the whole story.

Aside from the Customer Intelligence advantages, Amazon's Silk browser also provides the retailer with competitive intelligence (the other CI?). Amazon can watch for products or product combinations purchased on competitor websites, then optimize its merchandise to match or beat those competitors. Besting other retailers doesn't require it to track individual Kindle Fire users or target them through seemingly creepy direct marketing. Instead it can continue to do what it does best -- optimizing its supply chain and catalog -- without appearing to overstep customers' privacy expectations.

The competitive issues raised by Silk are as critical as the individual privacy concerns. 

Are you a retailer who competes with Amazon? What should CI professionals do to combat Amazon's move?

Kick Out The Tills, CI Professionals

Mike Brown, CIO of Lowe’s, in an interview with Bloomberg on the purchase of 42,000 iPhones as point of sale (POS) devices:

Forget about the competition, we are playing catch-up with the customer psyche.

CI professionals need to follow Brown’s lead. A substitution of tablets and smartphones for cash registers promises both to improve customer experience and to transform face-to-face customer interactions into a stream of behavioral and contextual data. The benefits of digitizing human channels through consumer devices include:

  • Adding clickstream analysis to human interactions. As sales associates interact with customers, their devices can relay clickstream data back to the company’s data warehouse. For example, Pfizer’s tablet program allows it to track doctors’ content consumption patterns during sales presentations. Using interaction management, firms can test real-time content variations to optimize the sales process.
  • Expanding customer data integration options. By using the phones for mobile POS, employees will pull in customer identity. Firms can also add new methods for data capture – such as Bump-style, near-field communications – into its consumer and enterprise apps. As sales associates transfer a shopping list to the customer’s phone, the device can capture and associate customer identifiers and contextual information with the interaction.
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