4 Steps To Effectively Handle Competitive Landmines

Great tips by Ryan Leask for how to handle competitive traps… also, love his tag: “The Dumbest Smart Guy.” 🙂

The Dumbest Smart Guy

Competitive Landmine Image Source: Sarah Pickering

Boom… You’re in the middle of a deal when your prospect asks about an area where you’re weak. A lot of people don’t handle this situation well, and come out of the meeting worried about the deal, scrambling to get the feature added to their roadmap. Often times, the source of this issue actually came from a competitor who planted the landmine that you just walked into. You can always tell if a competitor was the original source because:

  • The question comes out of nowhere
  • It’s a feature where one of your competitors is strong
  • The prospect asks the question in terms of a specific feature and not in terms of their business requirements
  • When you ask them “why” they’d actually need this feature, you get lots of “ums and ahs”, and a vague reference to something they might want to do, possibly, one day in the future

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Spy Fu’s Secret Sauce? Live, Breathe, and Steal Their #1 Rule

Spy Fu’s #1 Rule Rules!


Want to differentiate your business? Start with Spy Fu’s #1 rule. The rest will follow.

It’s simple. And bloody brilliant.

At Spy Fu, their number one rule is: “We are not dicks.”

Talk about crazy-bold. And super-endearing, all at once.

Spy Fu shows they are human. They’re personable. And authentic. In their FAQ video, they show their president and founder Mike Roberts sitting on a couch answering their number one frequently asked question. It’s well worth a watch so scroll to the bottom of their pricing page to check it out and take notes. It doesn’t get any better than this.

They talk the talk. But do they walk the walk?

Their product promise? Spy Fu is 100 percent risk-free.

Really? Yes.

And here’s their incredible risk-free blurb on their website so you can see for yourself (note the fantastic copy here):

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.20.00 PM

Not only do they give you a 30-day money back guarantee, but their mission statement clearly (and boldly) claims they are “not dicks.” (LOVE that!) So they promise not to make you jump through hoops or explain or answer any questions. What a breakthrough in customer service: ZERO-friction refund process.

Spy Fu doesn’t just get it. They really get it.  And they even invite you to request a cancellation through social media. (Like, who does that? Ridiculous brownie points for them!)

A public request to cancel service and request a refund? They really put their customers first and build immediate trust by making sure the cancellation process is as easy as possible. (Thumbs up, guys!)

I can’t say enough good things about this company, but let me give you the backstory so you can get caught up on why I’m so blown away by Spy Fu.

My team tried out this service to see if it would be helpful. We didn’t end up using it all that much since there were some changes in the priorities. So we decided to cancel it.

Since I didn’t know how to cancel the account, I went to their website and searched for how to do it. I found out that I could cancel by tweeting them or using their Live Chat feature. Since I didn’t want to tweet to them about closing my account, I decided to use their Live Chat box.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.17.36 PM

Spy Fu Live Chat Feature (Totally slick!)

Within a minute of entering my name, Danielle responded, introduced herself, and asked how she could help me. I told her I wanted to close my account. She didn’t give me a hard time. She just asked for my account number or email. Since I didn’t have my account number, I gave her my email address.

A few seconds later, she responded and asked me if I wanted a refund too or just close the account.

I paused. I didn’t know I could get a refund!

I typed, “Both, please.”

She said okay and then asked if she could do anything else for me. I thanked her for her kind and speedy service and left the chat box.

It was seamless and ultra-fast. Easy peasy!

Out of nowhere, all these warm and fuzzy feelings bubbled up inside me.

My mind was blown.

She did something no customer service rep would ever do: she voluntarily asked me if I wanted a refund.

Remember, I did not ask for it.

I only asked her to close my account.

But she could tell that the account was less than 30 days old so she brought it up. Now, if she didn’t care about service or about her company’s mission statement, she could’ve just closed the account and that would’ve been the end of it.

But she went the extra mile … even at the expense of her company losing a sale that she could’ve otherwise kept since I didn’t even know I was entitled to a refund.

At that moment, I fell in love with Spy Fu.

Even though I was no longer a paying customer, I will never forget this experience. I told my boss about it immediately. He was stunned they refunded us, since I didn’t ask about it.

No one expects this level of customer service. We’re so used to being hassled by overworked, grumpy, quasi-hostile customer service reps that when someone is actually nice about giving a refund, we’re stun-gun-surprised by it.

I immediately tweeted Spy Fu and thanked them for their superb service and no-hassle cancellation process. I told them it wasn’t a good fit now, but I might return later under different circumstances.

And guess what?

Spy Fu responded almost instantly. (Mega-impressive!)

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.18.50 PM

Spy Fu’s near-instant response exemplifies their #1 rule: “We are not dicks.”

If that isn’t a world-class, amazeballs response to someone who just closed an account, I don’t know what is.

In this hyper-competitive world, companies can learn a lot about how to stand out from the crowd simply by stealing Spy Fu’s mission statement and living up to that promise.

In fact, this rule should be plastered on every wall, door, and window of every office…and it should be turned into bumper stickers and shirts for all to see. (Social Imprints would have a field day with this!)

Thank you, Mike Roberts, for your inspiring and powerful #1 rule!

I wish every company could push the reset button and adopt Spy Fu’s winning secret sauce mantra, “We are not dicks.”

What would that world look like?…


How to Validate Email Addresses for Your Customer Loyalty Programs (So You Never Miss Your Customers’ Birthdays!)



Offering free birthday perks is a simple, effective way to ignite your customer loyalty programs.

One of the easiest and friendliest ways to win your customers’ hearts is to present them with free birthday surprises. If you want customers to subscribe to your programs, you have to give them irresistible incentives.

I’m a huge fan of customer loyalty rewards programs. And some companies just get it. They don’t trick you. They keep their brand promises. They deliver 100 percent free birthday treats every year, without any hoops to jump through. And that makes you feel like a valued customer.

March is a special month for me … it’s my birthday month. So basically, I get spoiled by a bunch of birthday freebies from all the customer loyalty rewards programs I belong to.

Here are a few of my favorite companies with totally awesome birthday reward programs that keep me loyal (and giddy):

  1. Baskin Robbins

What’s a birthday without a sweet ice cream treat? Baskin Robbins knows how to delight customers on their birthdays! I signed up for their Birthday Club years ago, and I always look forward to my free scoop of ice cream and special discounts off their ice cream cakes.

The icing on top

There’s no catch—absolutely no purchase necessary to redeem your free birthday scoop! Now that’s how to properly frost your customer loyalty programs.

Give your customers real gifts on their birthdays. With no strings attached. They’ll love you for it!


  1. Sephora Beauty Insider

Every birthday girl deserves to pamper herself on her birthday. Sephora glams you up with a free surprise cosmetic gift, sure to brighten your special day.

Shimmering sensation

Sephora knows how to dazzle their loyal customers with a birthday freebie every year, no purchase required. Every year, I pick up my gift without feeling obligated to buy anything else. Now, that’s a beautiful thing!


3. Rubio’s Beach Club

A complimentary meal for your birthday? A foodie’s dream come true! And Rubio’s serves up your favorite meal free, when you sign up for their Beach Club. Plus, members receive a free taco just for signing up. (Another yummy perk!)


Beach bum approved

No need to dip into your wallet to redeem your bodacious birthday meal. Rubio’s comps your meal (valued up to $7.99) so you can celebrate your birthday without spending a dime!


  1. Victoria’s Secret Pink Nation

To enhance your birthday suit, Victoria’s Secret Pink Nation gives you a $10 birthday gift card for a mini shopping spree (a sweet excuse for shopaholics to pick up something pretty).

Not-so-secret success

With over 11 million members, Pink Nation knows how to keep customers loyal and happy. Victoria’s Secret continuously sends coupons for free goodies and discounts that encourage customers to come back to the store and shop.

And it sure works!





Build lifelong customer relationships. Never miss your customers’ birthdays!

Acknowledging customer birthdays is the perfect chance to remind your customers that they matter. But before you can start showering them with free birthday treats, make sure their email addresses are valid and safe to send to.

Validating email addresses is an important step to take before starting your programs because it helps:

  • Reduce your email bounce rates
  • Improve your email deliverability
  • Protect you from spam traps
  • Boost your campaign performance
  • Enable customer engagement

How to use REV to validate email addresses for your customer loyalty programs

Note: To follow along, please sign up for a free trial of REV. You’ll also need to sign up for a free trial of Informatica Data as a Service (DaaS).

Important: You’ll receive a registration confirmation email from DaaS with your username and password, as well as an activation link. You’ll be prompted to enter these credentials into REV to activate the email validation service.


Registration confirmation email from DaaS with your username and password credentials to validate emails in REV.


Let’s get started!

After you sign up for a free trial of DaaS, follow these steps in REV to validate your customer email addresses:

  1. Log in to REV.
  2. Open “Sample Company Meeting” project (sample project included in the REV trial).
  3. Click the “email” header column. In the “Suggestions” panel, select “Validate as Email Address.”

Click the email header column. Select “Validate as Email Address” suggestion.

  1. In the “Suggestions” panel, click “Highlight deliverable Email Addresses.”

Click “Highlight deliverable Email Addresses” to see the status results.

Note: If this is the first time you’ve tried to validate email addresses in REV, you’ll see a pop-up window for Informatica Data as a Service, after you click “Highlight deliverable Email Addresses.” Enter your username and password provided in the Data as a Service registration confirmation email. Click “Connect.”


Enter your username and password for your DaaS free trial in the pop-up login form.

Using the DaaS API, REV validates each email address and shows you the Status Description, Reason Code, Reason Description, and Hygiene Result.

We can quickly find out which emails are valid, invalid, safe, and malicious.

  1. To find all your valid email addresses, click the “Status Description” column header. In the Value frequencies tab, check the box next to “Email Valid.”

REV shows you the valid emails in this list.

All done! Easy, right?

This is especially helpful if you collect email addresses from in-store forms and you want to verify the emails before loading them into your email database or marketing automation application.

It’s Your Turn

What’s your favorite customer loyalty perk? How do you keep your customers loyal and happy? Do you validate emails for your customer loyalty programs? How often do you scrub your customer email lists?

Please share your thoughts!

Hey, Digital Disruption, Call It a Truce?

Pen and Paper

I’m ready if I have my pen and notebook.

Notebook. Check.

Pen. Check.

All set for the 9:00 a.m. meeting.

As I walked into the conference room with a table peppered with laptops, I felt like Wilma Flintstone stepping into a meeting with the Jetsons. I was the only one without a laptop.


Really? Don’t people take notes on a notepad anymore? Guess not.

But I did. (And I quickly became known as the nerdy girl who totes a pen and pad everywhere. My boss even teased me about it because he thought it was completely inefficient to handwrite notes.)

The next day, my co-worker told me her laptop had crashed and she lost all her notes. Of course, she couldn’t remember the details from the meeting. She wanted to know if I had written down the project requirements and specifications, even though that information really didn’t pertain to me. 

I flipped through my notes and, sure enough, I had scribbled down the details, along with the other things she needed for her part of the project.

Her eyes thanked me and her mouth lifted into a smile as she said, “It’s a good thing you take notes on paper.”

The pen is truly mightier than the … laptop

Writing notes helps me remember.

If I don’t scribble, it doesn’t stick.

This taught me some very important lessons. Not only about business culture and co-workers. But also about me. I was very different. Not that I was embarrassed about how I approached things.

Though it’s more conventional to take laptops to meetings, I embraced my analog habits. I’m not ashamed of being a Wilma Flintstone among the Judy Jetsons out there.

Taking hard copy notes is how I process information. It’s how I learn. It’s how I translate and remember things. If I write something down, I’m far more likely to recall it later. I can picture it in my head. If I type out notes, things don’t seem to stick as well. I have to connect my brain with my pen. 

There’s just something magical about the tactile process of doodling and drawing arrows and circles and squares around my thoughts as someone spews out details about projects and updates. I absorb information through my pen.

Digital, you’ll never fully disrupt me.

Notepad and computer

I’m a hybrid, analog mixed with digital.

You might think I’m a total technophobe. While I’m not a coder or programmer, I’m not exactly technically inept either.

But I’m also not that girl super-glued to her smartphone while crossing the street. (Arrest me if I ever do that!)

I do tend to get overwhelmed by too much information (muting notifications helps a lot) and too much screen time. Which is why I print things out and use a pen and paper whenever possible.

But I admit, I don’t think in digital. It’s not my default preference. If I have to learn one more app on my own, I might fall down.

Ever since my co-worker shared her story about her computer crashing, my boss stopped giving me a hard time about my notes. After all, my analog habits beat digital. Laptops crash. Files get corrupted. Files don’t get saved properly. Too many things can go wrong with digital data. But, my chicken-scratch notes saved the day when digital faltered. And I’ll never forget that.

Hi, my name is Mar, and I’m somewhere between a digital native and immigrant.

(And that’s okay with me.)

Some people talk about Millenials as though they were some digitally-revved generation with age-related mythical powers. But as Bill Kutik discusses with R. “Ray” Wang in one of his Firing Line YouTube videos, age is actually not the basis for describing these so-called Millenials.

Instead of using age, Ray applies the concept of digital proficiency to categorize the various generations of digital aptitude. It’s more about digital behavior, digital adoption, and digital culture. How proficient or comfortable are you with digital? How have you adapted to digital disruptions?

I float back and forth between digital native and digital immigrant, a hybrid of analog and digital. (Confession: I’m totally guilty of taking notes, taking photos of them, and then emailing them to myself. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that!)

Ray breaks down the five digital proficiency types in his best-selling book, Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economyoutlined here:

Contrary to normal perceptions, cycling is not a fitness activity that solely involves the legs. Cycling builds strength in a holistic manner since every single part of the body is involved in cycling.

Clearly, technology is not the only factor of digital disruption. There are humans in this digital equationAnd there are multiple generations with varying degrees of digital literacy and technical skills, both inside and outside of the business.

Your customers are people too. And understanding their digital inclinations, preferences, and expectations will invariably affect your business performance and success. Perhaps this aspect has been overlooked too often, but businesses need to confront this reality.

The head-in-the-ground ostrich reaction just won’t cut it. How long can you sustain company growth if you’re complacent or in denial about your business-as-usual approach? Companies must remember these digital proficiencies when adopting new technologies, apps, and processes.

You can buy all the glitzy, expensive technology in the world, but if your teams and leaders can’t use these tools to their fullest potential, then you won’t win the digital disruption battle. And even if you’ve developed the hottest new technology out there, if you can’t connect with your customers on a peer-to-peer level, you won’t get the long-term results you need to become the next glorious unicorn.

Let’s face it. No one wants to be the next Blockbuster.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.42.33 AM

Blockbuster.com is merely a placeholder site now with PR information and FAQs.

But everyone wants to be the next Netflix and Facebook.

Are you ready for a people-centric approach, both within your company and with your customers?

Are you empowering your teams with the right digital tools that don’t disrupt their workday? Will digital disrupt your business or will you be the next digital disruptor?

It’s your turn

I hope you enjoyed the interview that Bill graciously allowed me to share. Thank you so much, Bill, for your kindness. And thank you, Ray, for your illuminating analysis and insights!

If you’d like to learn more, please visit Bill Kutik’s YouTube channel. Follow Bill Kutik on Twitter at @billkutik and follow Ray at @rwang0.

What is your digital proficiency? Are you negotiating between analog and digital? Or are you dreaming in digital already?

Getting in Bed with Bed Bath & Beyond’s Coupon Conundrum: The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty

Coupons, coupons, coupons. The more the merrier, right? That depends…


The Good

If you’re a deal-seeking customer, coupons are fantastic staples you can’t imagine shopping without.

Out of all coupons cluttering my mailbox, my favorite ones come from Bed Bath & Beyond.

And I’m not alone. These coupons cultivate insane customer loyalty as savvy shoppers everywhere adore these find-an-excuse-to-shop coupons (you know, the blue beauties for 20% off one item and $5 off a $15 purchase).


Who doesn’t appreciate saving money, while picking up a few necessities?

Bed Bath & Beyond coupons: Don’t leave home without ‘em!

Coupons, plural… (You caught that, right?)

I’ve been enjoying using Bed Bath & Beyond coupons for years—I never seem to run out!


Because I get multiple coupons every time they send out their catalogs and mailers.

How is that possible? (I’ll dig into that later…)

The Bad

If you ask Bed Bath & Beyond about these coupons, their sentiments might not be as favorable as mine. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, these coupons pose complicated issues, negatively impacting Bed Bath & Beyond’s bottom line: profit. Executives at Bed Bath & Beyond blame the popularity of the coupons and their associated costs for contributing to their 25 percent stock plummet and 10 percent profit loss last year.

What can they do about this coupon conundrum?

Coupons, Coupons Everywhere

First, let’s review how customers get their hands on these coupons. Thinking in terms of data and data collection, I tried to guess why I keep getting multiple coupons. I retraced my interactions with Bed Bath & Beyond and realized a few things:

  1. I’ve purchased items online at http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com, which required standard shipping and delivery information at checkout. This interaction triggered coupons.
  1. I’ve also shopped at the local Bed Bath & Beyond and registered to join their mailing list at checkout for more coupons. That time, I entered my mailing address in a different format (i.e., I put my apartment number on the second address line instead of keeping it on the top line, like I normally do).
  1. Years later, I signed up online through their pop-up registration form using my new email address, which placed me on another subscriber list.bbbsignup

So that’s how I think I landed on so many different customer lists: I subscribed through different channels, at different times over the years, with different interactions.

The Dirty

Still baffled about why I was receiving multiple coupons, I took a closer look at the coupons themselves to see if I missed something. And the answer was staring at me in the face: my address was formatted differently on each coupon!

Masking my personal address (for data privacy, of course!), these example coupons (shown below) display the address variations I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind the permutations are endless if you include differences in names. If a customer enters a nickname while registering a second time (e.g., James and Jim), this will also generate multiple coupons.


Example 1: Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon showing the suite number in the same line as the street address.


Example 2: Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon showing the suite number in the second address line.


Since I’ve been receiving multiple coupons in the mail for several years, it’s probably fairly safe to assume that Bed Bath & Beyond does not have a consolidated single customer record for me.

This means their systems and customer mailing lists are probably not synced, cleaned, or updated regularly. What’s more, they’re not removing duplicate records or merging partial duplicate records.

Bed Bath & Beyond is facing a dirty reality with disconnected, duplicate customer records triggering multiple coupons to be mailed to customers like me.


Bed Bath & Beyond’s Best Bed Buddy: Data Quality


How can Bed Bath & Beyond address this issue? Data quality. Cleaning their customer databases regularly and applying last-mile data cleansing to these customer lists would help:

  1. Eliminate duplicate coupons from being issued, thus naturally lowering the number of coupons used
  2. Reduce coupon costs associated with printing, mailing, and distribution


Clean your dirty data with REV, excel beyond Excel

Cleaning data is a best practice that needs to be done regularly to avoid having multiple records scattered across different systems for the same customer.

While the IT department can incorporate data quality tools and MDM to help tackle this enterprise challenge, marketers and other employees can also help. How? By being proactive about cleaning lists before uploading new contact records to their marketing automation and CRM systems, as well as after pulling lists to start new campaigns or promotions.

The problem is, a lot of employees are not always formally trained to clean spreadsheet data. Not only do they lack expertise, but they don’t have the patience or time to double-check massive customer lists properly for duplicate or partial duplicate records in Excel.

But if Excel is a time-drain for you or if you’re tired of using complicated Excel formulas to manipulate data, you can reshape and clean up your spreadsheets in minutes with REV. (Or, you can continue to spend hours in Excel. But you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll save with REV’s automated data prep shortcuts.)

(Confession: I’m not an Excel pro, so I really love how REV guides me through common data prep and data cleansing tasks. If I tried doing these things in Excel, it would take me hours.)

I encourage you to sign up for a free REV trial and test out the “Resolve duplicates” feature to weed out those pesky duplicate records. (It’s a no-brainer way to fix your spreadsheets fast!)

This is how I remove duplicate data in spreadsheets using REV:

  1. Get Data: Export a customer list you want to double-check (it can be in CSV, Excel, or TXT format).
  1. Open REV: Log in to REV at https://rev-app.informatica.com

Sign in to REV using your email address and password.

3. Get started: Click “New Project.”

new project

Click “New Project” at the top.

4. Name your project and goal. Click “Continue.”


Name your project and goal.

5. Import Data: Click “Files” and choose your file type: CSV, Excel file, TXT. Click “Import.” (Your list will upload to REV and you can start working with it!)


Select “Files”

6. Dedupe Records: Right click on the top column you want to double-check, either by last name or email address. Find and remove duplicate customer contact records by selecting the “Resolve duplicates” filter (shown below).


Resolve duplicates

7. Merge and Delete: Edit the row of data you want to keep and click the row you want to delete. REV will automatically isolate the partial duplicates for you, so you can modify the fields as needed.

duplicate data blog

Aha! REV automatically found two similar records for John Smith. Using the “Resolve duplicates” filter, you can quickly edit and consolidate his contact information to avoid sending him two coupons.

The Coupon Conundrum

Bed Bath & Beyond needs to clip this coupon conundrum quickly. They simply can’t afford to wait any longer to fix it. By identifying some of the underlying problems and incorporating some data quality best practices, they can manage and monitor their data better and prevent new duplicate records from contaminating their systems.

From the customer perspective, these coupons rock. Taking them away from customers is not the answer. (Doing so would probably traumatize loyal customers, to say the least.) I, for one, probably wouldn’t shop there as often if I didn’t have those coupons to tempt me.

From Bed Bath & Beyond’s perspective, I can understand why they might have mixed feelings about these profit-crushing coupons.

Addressing their data quality issues head-on will enable them to eliminate duplicate customer records, one of the sneaky culprits fueling this coupon explosion.

(Confession: I told you I love these coupons, but I also hoard them, keeping them on hand for future shopping trips. Most people don’t know these secrets, but you can use one coupon per item while you’re checking out, and even though there’s an expiration date posted on the coupon, they never expire! Bed Bath & Beyond has made me a customer for life by honoring that policy. Good for me, semi-bad for Bed Bath & Beyond, depending on how you look at it.) 



How would you rate your data quality? What steps or strategies do you have in place to monitor and ensure data quality at your company? What tools do you use to clean your customer lists? What would you do if you were facing Bed Bath & Beyond’s coupon conundrum?

Sharing is caring!  Please add your pearls of wisdom in the comment section below!

When Big Data Gets It Wrong…


Not too long ago, Shutterfly sent me a surprising and baffling email with the subject line: “We are very sorry for yesterday’s email.”

With this kind of perplexing subject line, I had to open the email and see what was going on inside (see above).  Clearly, this was a case of Big Data gone wrong. Shutterfly targeted the wrong audience in its latest email campaign.

However, instead of pretending that this incident didn’t occur, Shutterfly was proactive about reaching out to its customers to apologize…and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes Shutterfly more credible and respectable.

It’s interesting to note that the Chief Marketing Officer at Shutterfly sent out a generic mass email–notice the all-encompassing “Valued Customer” greeting–instead of sending out personalized messages (i.e., Dear Susie or Bill, etc.). That was the one thing missing from this piece of customer correspondence in my opinion. It felt generic to read and it felt like Shutterfly wasn’t even sure if I had received this message or not. There are customer communications management solutions out there that would’ve enabled Shutterfly to send out personalized greetings so customers wouldn’t feel like they received a mass email bandaid.

It’s clear from this example that working with Big Data is hard. And sometimes, Big Data can get it wrong. Software and technology can help a lot with marketing efforts, but it takes a human mind to sort out the aftermath of Big Data analytics gone awry. To apologize or not was something Shutterfly must’ve contemplated. In the end, I believe Shutterfly made the right decision to reach out to customers and explain the mistake.

Personal Big Data Trails in the Retail World


Data is everywhere (that’s indisputable). What I didn’t realize was how often–and how subtly–personal big trails get created every day.

Case in point, I went to Kohl’s to use up a free $10 rewards coupon card last weekend. While I was checking out, the cashier asked me for my phone number. I paused. I didn’t understand why he needed my phone number for this transaction, so instead of passively reciting my number for him, I politely declined and told him I didn’t want to give him my number. He didn’t say anything and the transaction continued as normal. The alarms didn’t go off and managers weren’t called over because I didn’t give him my phone number. So, what was the point of that inane question?

This was a case of sneaky retail marketing analytics at work! I was “lucky” enough to catch it and did not surrender my personal data for their marketing purposes. Retailers try to gather different kinds of personal customer data whenever possible to get new intel–new business intelligence–about their patrons. The Kohl’s $10 rewards card was just a retail tactic to get shoppers to come shop–that’s obvious. But, the twist this time was that Kohl’s wanted something out of their customers this time. (Note: this has never happened to me before at Kohl’s and I have been shopping there for years.) Kohl’s figured it was worth giving out a $10 gift card if it resulted in a new collection of customer data! Retailers used to ask customers what their zip codes were so they could get geospatial data about their patrons, but now, it seems they have moved onto a more powerful channel: phone numbers. With my phone number, Kohl’s could effectively track my shopping behavior and monitor my movements throughout their store if my smartphone had its Wi-fi activated. Some retailers have been known to send text coupons in real time to customers while they are shopping to entice them to purchase something they would otherwise not buy. Clever marketing? Or does this infringe on shoppers’ personal space and privacy?

Personally, I avoid handing out my number whenever possible. Who knows what kind of database my personal information would land in?

Would you have handed over your phone number blindly? I’m glad I wasn’t on auto-pilot that day because otherwise, I would have spit out my number without even thinking twice (as I suspect a lot of people tend to do!). Why else would a cashier ask that question if it weren’t absolutely “necessary” to have that information? It seems innocuous enough… However, consumers need to wake up and stop handing over their personal big data because who knows where those data trails will lead.

My phone number is more than just ten digits–it’s just the beginning of a trail of my personal big data…and I refuse to release that information indiscriminately.

Google Knows all My Big Data…

It’s eerie how many behind-the-scene things that happen when you surf the Internet…and, Google knows all!  I must be one of the last people on earth to realize this, but nevertheless, I wanted to blog about it so it could be recorded for posterity (just in case there are other people who were clueless like I was!).  I had no idea how much data Google collects while people are on the Internet, but obviously, Google keeps track of everything (I just didn’t realize to what extent)! Just by searching for “Big Data” topics and reporting software, my entire search results got skewed all of a sudden.

Here’s what I didn’t know:

  • Google literally makes your search results PERSONALIZED according to your search history! So, just because I started researching Big Data, analytics software, reporting software, Apple, Cloudera, and tech-related topics, my search results CHANGED accordingly.

My Google has started to present specific results to my first page (I can say “my Google” now because Google has essentially turned into my own personal Google engine! It serves me up what it thinks I want to look at according to my history…so, I think I have a right to call it my Google since no one else gets the same results I do!). I was completely oblivious to that. I thought the search results were search results, regardless of who you were and where you were searching from–but, I was wrong! If I punch in a search term, chances are my first page results will now look different from anyone else’s and so on. BIZARRE…and CREEPY!

Luckily, I have learned the tricks of the trade and have cleared my cache and turned on the “Private” browsing mode on my Macbook. I never used that feature before, but now when I enter search terms, I won’t get “inaccurate” search results on my first page. I will supposedly see the results that the rest of the world sees…right? I hope so.

It is so uncanny that my Google results could be so dramatically different from standard Google search term results. What does that mean? That means that from my end, certain pages appear to have higher page rank when, in fact, they don’t. So, one site could appear on page one of the search results for me, when the actual page rank of that page should place it on page two or three of the search results list. That is very misleading and confusing. It’s like Google wants to spoon-feed me certain pages because it thinks I want to see them on page one or something.

What does your Google look like?


Big Data Is…

Big Data is...

Big Data Is…

Google sure has a “mind” of its own.  According to Google, people think Big Data is:

  • “like teenage”
  • “dead”
  • “bullshit”
  • “the future”

This makes me wonder what kind of searches people are performing these days when it comes to their big data research! I recently did this search and these were the actual words that Google wanted to auto-complete for me! Google predicted some pretty strange endings to my search query terms! I am still scratching my head trying to figure out what all that means…

All of Google’s algorithms try to guess or anticipate what people want to search for based on the frequency and patterns of previous searches. Now, I wonder if these phrases were inputted by Google as a joke or if this is really what people enter into the Google search field when they are looking for information about Big Data.

Ironically, all those searches for “big data” become their own set of Big Data for Google to keep track of and store!  On average, the keyword phrase “big data” is searched about 49,500 times a month! That is a huge keyword search volume. People are definitely hunting for more and more information about Big Data in an effort to better understand what it is and what it isn’t.

Just like beauty is beautiful and honesty is honest, philosophically, it boils down to this: Big Data is Big Data.  Now, that should be included in Google’s auto-complete field when someone starts to type in “Big Data is…”