Data relations for a personalized future

In this subproject Antonia Steigerwald investigates the practices and imaginaries on personalization in the field of Swiss retail marketing.

Retail companies are pursuing programs to collect customer data and shape customer relationships. People leave digital footprints behind when they go shopping. Data about what they bought, when and where they bought it, as well as maybe other information, such as their movements within the store or website, and information about the persons with whom they shared the purchase. This purchase data becomes the subject of practices to learn about the clientele and to engage or, if necessary, exclude them. Digital payments serve as a link between consumer data pools and on-site customers.

So, the future of personalization is already waiting in the (retail) world’s data resources. Data-driven, predictive personalization is expected to enable frictionless shopping experiences, as well as customers› personal relationships with stores and brands. Personalized shopping is the future of retail—and the only way to compete successfully in the face of ever-increasing consumer expectations (announces the Salesforce report «Personalization of Shopping», 2018). The phenomenon of personalization is already ubiquitous today—sometimes as a story of future possibilities, sometimes as a discount coupon for one’s favorite assortment. When people move through the shopping aisles or across websites but especially when they pay or swipe their loyalty cards, data is collected. For companies, this data is an important (economic) asset, it is considered valuable.

The notion of a personalized future and the expectations of the digital infrastructure have a significant influence on economic actions and thus on the relational work of the marketing scene: They create, shape, and maintain relationships with the people they want to convince of a product or brand. The fact that consumers expect personalized interactions seems unquestioned, as does the fact that this is possible on the basis of data analysis and behavior predictions.

Two aspects are therefore central for the actors in this digital economy: firstly, the evaluation of behavioral data from existing and potential customers, and secondly, the relationships with these customers in order to collect data and act in a personalized manner based on this data. So in the research project Antonia Steigerwald asks, «How does transactional data shape relationships in the digital economy?»