How Online Retailers Are Making Your Holiday Shopping Decisions For You

by Jordan Edelson


While consumers across the country prepare their holiday shopping lists, online retailers have already spent quite some time monitoring their digital activity to manipulate those decisions for them. According to holiday shopping statistics collected by, “84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during trips to a store, and those shoppers convert at a 40 percent higher rate than those who don’t use web-connected devices.” In other words, by tracking consumer’s digital behaviors, including their emails, social media posts, photos and search engine prompts, online retailers have an excellent opportunity to strongly make holiday gift-giving suggestions without the consumer ever realizing.

If you’ve ever spent a few hours online shopping for a couch or a new kitchen table, the influx of furniture-related ads that appear in your inbox and on your social media pages afterward don’t often come as a surprise.  These tailored ads demonstrate, in the most basic form, the power of tracking online shopping habits. Most interesting, however, is the less-than-obvious ways that retailers are accessing information about potential consumers in order to orchestrate their purchases this holiday season.

5 Ways You’re Letting Marketers Manipulate You

This year, online shoppers are expected to spend $72.4 billion, $10 billion more than last year, according to the aforementioned data. One of the reasons behind this year’s record-breaking spending is that retailers are acquiring limitless data about their consumers, and with this information they have developed a tactical algorithm that can do more than suggest or prompt decisions. In effect, they can determine exactly what they want the customer to purchase.

For the consumers who may believe that they are exempt or uninfluenced by advertisements, consider all of the information made public and accessible for retailers, marketers, advertisers and almost anyone else to utilize.

  1. Social media posts.Social media has given retailers significant insight into how their target consumers behave. On a daily basis, millions of consumers expose details about their friends, families, habits, schedules, emotions, likes, dislikes, hobbies and pet peeves.
  2. Through the images posted on social media platforms, retailers can also determine what a person already has, what their friends have and what they are most likely or unlikely to consume. Photos also reveal a lot about a person’s lifestyle and emotions, which is a substantial indicator of purchasing habits.
  3. What you digitally and physically browse.Retailers have never tried to hide that they are monitoring what you type in a search engine, but what’s less than obvious is that they can also track what you physically browse in the store and how much time you spend in that particular section.
  4. Geographic location.This helps retailers refine their promotions and tailor them directly to potential customers who are geographically likely to visit the store.
  5. Perhaps one of the most revealing platforms, online retailers can determine spending habits, occupation, personality and relationships through email conversations. If you receive e-copies of your statement or credit card bills, that also provides insight to almost every purchase made as well as current financial standing.

Combine all of this personal information and add the information of friends, family, co-workers and everyone you communicate with, and retailers have all the data they need to make purchasing decisions for you. It may be time to reconsider if it is really the “thought” that counts.


Jordan Edelson is the Founder and CEO of Appetizer Mobile LLC, one of the leading mobile application development agencies in NYC. Jordan has created over 150 mobile and digital experiences for major brands all over the world including the NBA, Joe Girardi, Kim Kardashian, Interscope Records, Epic Records, Lady Gaga, Montessorium, 50 Cent and more. Regarded as an expert in the mobile and digital industries, Edelson has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg TV, ABC New and Fox Business among other major media outlets.

Originally published by StartupCollective.