The essay questions I chose:
“Critically think about and argue the topic of using data mining by corporations such as grocery and department stores to find patterns in the way people buy goods. In doing this, stores hope to influence what shoppers buy and when. Consider this issue from as many different perspectives as possible (consumer and store owners may not be the only one’s here) and provide some evidence backing up your observations.”
There are a number of perspectives to consider when considering the positives and negatives of corporations’ use of data mining to find patterns in the way people buy goods.
Clearly it’s important for the stores themselves to know just what products are selling. Data mining can help the stores also know when certain products are more likely to be sold, i.e. seasonal appeal. I’d imagine product placement is another aspect of sales that data mining could be used to look at.
That leads to the impact on those who make the products. If something’s not selling, then the stores will be less likely to sell it. While in the past, I’m sure some product makers could argue, ‘There’s always a demand for our product,’ the use of data mining could show the stores that’s simply not the case. In turn, manufacturers whose product has become less popular will have to improve their product, change their production focus entirely or risk going out of business.
How about the consumers, whose purchasing patterns are being scouted through data mining? On the one hand, the process, if done correctly, should reflect the general buying patterns of the public. Of course, those consumers who favor a less popular product could find themselves unable to find that product because data mining has shown it’s not cost-effective for the stores to stock it. There’s also, as always, the concern over privacy. Depending on what data is being mined, there could well be information being recorded that some, if not all, consumers would consider private.
Another aspect to consider is the impact on “mom and pop” stores, who generally lack the budget to use data mining procedures. As if the deck isn’t stacked enough against them, they could find themselves stocking unpopular products, further damaging their bottom line, because they simply don’t have the data to know that those products aren’t what the majority of their prospective customers want to buy.
Generally, I would consider data mining to be a positive effort. By considering what’s actually in demand product-wise, manufacturers, sellers and consumers would benefit.