MasterCard's Online Mall Isn't Just a 'Big Brother' Ploy


MasterCard (MA) will open a new online shopping mall with a special twist for some of its retail partners. According toThe New York Times, the new business will use technology developed by NextJump, a company that "monitors customer behavior from thousands of retailers and uses the data it gathers to help merchants tailor their product offerings."

Using behavioral targeting, MasterCard will "aim" products and services at shoppers as they "wander" through the online mall. But it will give shoppers' data to retailers only after cardholders sign up for the service. According to management of MasterCard Marketplace, this allows customers a strong measure of control over their privacy.

Consumer privacy advocates will almost certainly oppose the plan, but their objections will be overblown. The MasterCard "opt in" model is an old one in the retailing business and is used regularly by direct-mail companies. Customers can say they don't want mail sent to their addresses or emails sent to their online accounts. So, customers can control the extent to which their behavior is used to help retailers send messages based on their shopping habits.

Effective predictive software can actually be a benefit to consumers. Instead of walking aimlessly through an online mall, shoppers get help from the software about products they're likely to want. This can cut down shopping time and help consumers wade through the great sea of products in the mall. Consumers get to see what they might actually be interested in.