In order for companies to keep up with our ever-changing society, they must know what consumers really want. Recently, Google announced that it has begun to put together a program where they will track individuals’ online activity. Now, one may think who would feel comfortable allowing a company to watch their every move online? The answer - people who don’t mind giving up some privacy rights for the greater good and ones who also shop on Amazon!  Google has agreed to pay each user $5 to $25 in Amazon giftcards in exchange for participating in the panel. Since Google is competing against other web browsers such as Yahoo and Bing, they are hoping that this program will provide them with the insight necessary to set them apart from the others.

With Google  generating over a billion dollars a year in revenue from products such as email services and cell phone and computer applications, constantly improving their products is critical. That being said, this initiative, if conducted properly, will be extremely beneficial in finding what modifications are needed to stay up to date with user preferences. According to Google, the program, called Screenwise, will consist of a panel of about a few thousand people. All participants must have a Google account and use the Google Chrome web browser. They will receive $5 up front for installing the browser extension that will allow all data from their browser to be collected and monitored. Then, for every three months that they continue to participate in the program, they will receive an additional $5, up to a year. While many people may feel like this is harmful and an invasion of privacy, Google looks at it as necessary in order to deliver a product of high quality. Whether invading the privacy of users or not, this is a classic example of market research.

Market research is often overlooked as being one of the major steps in sourcing. The purpose of the research phase of any sourcing initiative is to gain market intelligence by identifying potential opportunities to reduce costs based on the data collected.  Though Google’s overall objective for their use of market research is slightly different, like sourcing, the company will be able to sift through data collected through the browser extension and find ways to improve their site and the way it’s used based on overall consumer behavior. For instance, they may realize that they should invest less capitol in banner ads based on minimal usage or that users prefer web results with more information rather than one with a general overview of the site. Once realizing what changes need to be made, they’ll conduct further research on ways to implement the idea and add it to their overall strategy in improving the web site.

Google’s use of market research will hopefully produce the results needed to in tailor their web browser to one that provides tools and applications that most users prefer. This could be seen as an invasion of privacy, but at least it may produce some good in terms of the way users browse on the Google site and they’re getting paid for it!
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Victoria Baston

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