Each time customers use their payment cards for a transaction, MasterCard records the time, date, amount of money spent and the name of the merchant. This information is then sold to advertisers which can use it for their online marketing campaigns.
Targeted advertising is the key to success for many companies these days. Most internauts are well aware that the websites they visit track user behavior to improve their services and, implicitly, customer satisfaction.
On the other hand, many companies also sell these details to advertisers, so that the spam emails we receive and the ads we’re presented when surfing websites are designed especially for us.
While these practices are old and common, few people may have expected that each time they visit a store and pay for an item with their card, their details are collected just as when they’re browsing the web.
According to Wired
, MasterCard representatives claim that the information they harvest can be utilized to identify certain segments, such as big spenders, Black Friday shoppers, holiday travelers and even last-minute shoppers.
With the holiday season drawing near, advertisers can make sure that their products reach the right audience.
The company claims that the methods they use are proprietary so they haven’t revealed how exactly offline shopping turns into online ads. They also highlight the fact that personally identifiable information is not collected in the process.
For now, the program – called MasterCard Audiences – is available only in the United States, but if it turns out to be a big hit, we shouldn’t be surprised if it will be extended to other countries, or if other card issuers will pick up the idea as well.
However, it will be interesting to see if all this Do Not Track controversy
we're seeing these days will have an impact on such practices.