Company claims it can predict who in a market will sell

You may have heard the now-pretty-famous story of how, by analyzing customers’ buying habits, Target is able to predict when a family is going to have a baby before the parents tell anyone.

Big Data (capitalize both words, please) is a big thing. See, "data mining" is old hat — that’s the science of finding unexpected connections between things, like "People who have more than one bumper sticker are more likely to be in a road-rage incident."

But when you have a lot of data, you can really go to town.

Target is doing that quite well.

Lots of people buy lotion, but one of [Target researcher Andrew] Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

Now there’s a company that’s claiming to do that for real estate — to be able to take data about a market and determine who there is most likely to become a seller.

SmartZip says it can figure out "which homeowners in your farm were considering to sell in the next 6-12 months" and help you market to them.

Let’s be clear here: VAR is not recommending it or saying you should avoid it. It could be an incredible tool or it could be snake oil. All I’m saying is "Gee, that’s interesting" especially in light of what Target (and Google, and Facebook) can do.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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