Last week I read a story about a man who was angered by the marketing collateral his high-school aged daughter was receiving from retailer Target. She had received discount coupons for baby cots, maternity wear and baby clothes in the mail. The man was angry thinking that Target was encouraging his young daughter to get pregnant. After complaining to Target he went home and after some family discussions actually found out that his daughter was indeed pregnant. All Target had done was work out from her buying habits that she probably was. A bit awkward that they worked it out before her parents! Target knew before Dad because they mine their buyers' data.
This article in Forbes explains how Target use buying data:
'Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August.' Target, true to their name, will mine that data and target her with stuff pregnant women due in August would be likely to buy.
Right now data is being widely used (exploited) in the consumer space to sell folk stuff - inevitably it's a tool that is more and more important in the B2B space too. Check out how the lego men explain Big Data below.