Target Predicted It Customer’s Pregnancy And Made Billions

If you doubt the power of data in driving sales, Target’s story will definitely change your mind

Toba Akande
3 min readOct 2, 2023
Source: Reuters

In the vast landscape of modern retail, the battle for customers’ hearts and wallets is relentless.

Companies are constantly seeking innovative ways to gain an edge, utilizing data-driven strategies to understand and cater to their consumers’ desires.

One such retail giant that made waves with a game-changing approach is Target, which, in the early 2000s, harnessed the power of data to predict something deeply personal and significant — pregnancy.

Imagine a world where your shopping habits reveal more than just your preferences.

Target’s quest for new revenue streams led them to this extraordinary territory, where they employed the genius of a statistician named Andrew Pol.

Andrew was entrusted with a mission that would forever change the retail landscape — to head the Guest Analytics division and decipher the secrets hidden within customer data.

The journey began by assigning each customer a unique identification, enabling Andrew to dig deep into the treasure trove of purchase histories.

Among the myriad products purchased, Andrew noticed intriguing patterns.

Unscented lotion and specific vitamins like calcium and zinc appeared to be key indicators. It was as if these seemingly ordinary items held the keys to a profound revelation — pregnancy.

With ingenuity and data-driven precision, Andrew developed a groundbreaking pregnancy prediction score.

This score was remarkably accurate, estimating a woman’s due date with a staggering 90% precision.

Target had stumbled upon a goldmine of information that transcended traditional marketing approaches.

Why was this revelation so valuable?

Pregnancy, it turns out, is a transformative life event. It reshapes consumer behavior, causing brand loyalties to waver and creating a newfound openness to trying new products.

This select group of pregnant shoppers became the holy grail for precisely targeted advertisements. For Target, this meant carving out a significantly larger slice of the lucrative baby market.

However, the brilliance of this strategy was unveiled in a most unexpected and public manner.

A story went viral about a father from Minneapolis who stormed into a Target store, irate and perplexed.

He demanded to know why his teenage daughter was receiving advertisements for baby clothes. Little did he know, this seemingly intrusive marketing tactic was the result of Target’s uncannily accurate pregnancy prediction.

A week later, that very father discovered the astonishing truth — his daughter was indeed pregnant.

The accuracy of Target’s predictions was a testament to the power of data analytics and how it could uncover life-changing events even before they unfolded.

The impact of Target’s Guest Analytics division was nothing short of staggering.

It is estimated that the strategies born from this initiative contributed an additional $600 million per year to Target’s revenue.

To put this into perspective, Target was employing these pioneering data-driven tactics years before giants like Google and Facebook made highly targeted advertising the industry norm.

Target’s journey from a retail giant to a data-driven powerhouse demonstrates the incredible possibilities that await those willing to explore the uncharted realms of consumer data.

It’s a testament to the idea that innovation is not always about reinventing the wheel; sometimes, it’s about understanding your customers so profoundly that you can predict their needs even before they do.

In the annals of retail history, Target’s pregnancy prediction story stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when data, innovation, and a commitment to understanding your customers converge.

As we move further into the era of data-driven decision-making, one thing is certain: the retail landscape (as well as every other industry) will continue to evolve, offering new and exciting ways to engage with consumers and meet their ever-changing needs.

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Toba Akande

Master of sarcasm, keeping my profound thoughts safely contained in words. Serious issues? I address them with a twist