E-Commerce Today: Catching You in the Act

Ever find yourself browsing the internet and stumble upon an ad for a product that you just searched for?

Photo by oatawa/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by oatawa/iStock / Getty Images

Seriously, have you? This is the kind of digital age we’re living in, the kind that follows you around wherever your digital fingerprint goes. Businesses profit exponentially from this technological era wherein anyone and everyone has something to share online. Today, we no longer go to businesses, businesses come to us.

Almost every single time I shop for something online, say on Amazon or E-bay, the margins of my Google and YouTube searches fill up with ads for whatever it was that I was shopping for. If I’m shopping for musical equipment, I see Guitar Center ads everywhere; if it’s for a phone accessory, Apple and Android ads flood my peripheral internet vision.

And yet, I’ll almost always turn to Facebook for internet shopping guidance: “What do you guys think of…” or “Has anyone purchased…” are common status updates of mine. Why is this the case? Because I’d be caught dead before ever traveling to an actual location for advice on that business’s specialty that I just so happen to be in need of. Instead, I turn to my peers online, because they are the ones that I trust.

Isn’t that paradoxical? “Social commerce harnesses the simple idea that people value the opinions of other people,” writes Erik Qualman in his book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, in this case, even over the opinions of professionals.

With the use of cookies, online e-commerce stores and other internet businesses track users who visit their websites to determine what they’re shopping for and later utilize that information to draw those same users back to their online shops with product recommendations. This is accomplished by purchasing ad space with companies that experience large amounts of internet traffic, such as Google, YouTube, or Bing, and pushing individualized advertisements to those individuals who visit those websites.

PracticalEcommerce says that cookies can “be used used to track information that leads to making better product recommendations in an online store or to help offer special prices and discounts to loyal shoppers.” But even against our own shopping habits used against us, don’t we still prefer the opinions of our peers?