Companies take advantage of habits in their marketing.

Retailers have long known more about the habits of shoppers than shoppers themselves do. Retailers trawl through masses of data on customer behavior and then adapt their operations to maximize sales. For example, here’s a surprising fact: most people instinctively turn right when entering a store; therefore, retailers put their most profitable products on the right side of the entrance.

One of the masters of this method is Target, the American retailer that serves millions of shoppers annually and collects terabytes of data on them. Their data analysis became so sophisticated they could even tell when customers were pregnant and predict their due date because their shopping patterns changed and they started buying things like prenatal vitamins. By sending them baby-related coupons, Target could effectively lure them into their stores.

The analysis worked so well that Target actually knew a teenage girl was pregnant before she had told her family. Target sent her baby-related coupons, prompting her father to pay the local Target manager an angry visit: “She’s still in high school… Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?!” When the truth came out, it was the abashed father’s turn to apologize.

But Target soon realized that people resented being spied on. For its baby coupons to work, it needed to bury them amid random unrelated offers for things like lawnmowers; the offers had to seem like the familiar, untargeted ones.

When trying to sell anything new, companies will dress it up in something familiar; for example, radio DJs can guarantee a new song becomes popular by playing it sandwiched between two existing hit songs. This way, new habits or products are far more likely to be accepted.

Source: Blinkist App. From The power of habit by Charles Duhigg