Tuesday, 4 July 2017

online industrialists timebomb

The online industrialists may be getting ahead of themselves.

Many sites track customer online behaviour.  If a consumer shows intent over a period in a specific product, the price is raised.  This is personalisation gone wrong.  Personalisation and data analytics are fantastic digital tools, improving a consumer experience.  But how do you feel if it is used to raise the price because they know you are likely to buy?

Google’s recent trouble with the EU shows another troubling sign.  “The European Union’s antitrust regulator fined Alphabet Inc’s Google USD2.71 billion for favouring its own comparison-shopping service in search results and ordered the search giant to apply the same methods when displaying rivals’ services, in a move that could have far-reaching implications for the tech industry” – 28 June 2017, The Wall Street Journal.  I usually do not side regulators but if true this seems an over-reach by an online industrial complex.

Digital business is all about great user experience but this could redefine the term – “Amazon granted a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking” – 15 June, 2017, The Verge.  From the article, “If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested  content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright”.  The writer of the article could be wrong in her interpretation on the use of the patent but if she is right, it changes the term customer experience to vendor experience.

If the digital industry continues in this trajectory, it may blow up in their face.  Already when I’m researching to buy something online, I try to thwart such abuse.  Perhaps I’ll browse for the prices and use it to negotiate similar prices at a physical shop. 

And if history is a guide, the anti-trust regulators could be just starting to play a larger role in the digital industry and will step in like they did to the over-dominant JP Morgan & Company at the turn of the 20th century to break it up as the nascent banking industry was emerging.  I expect the same with the digital ‘Morgans’.

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