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What’s Cooking in the Silicon Valley?

Mar 22, 2011   |   4 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

Every individual has a set of preferences, likes, and dislikes that translates to different shopping behaviors. Coupons, advertisements and marketing messages, however, are not always personalized and tailored to these preferences. So how can the world of online marketing become a more relevant place? One answer is through the delivery of opt-in customized email based on existing behaviors. The study below compares shopping habits of Google and Microsoft employees to demonstrate how personalization works at the organizational level.

We looked in our database for data about people with an or an email address, and we created a sample of approximately 6,000 Google employees and 16,000 Microsoft employees. After anonymizing the data, we worked with data from a loyalty cards aggregator to evaluate the employees’ purchase trends at grocery stores. For each company, we looked at the percentage of customers who purchased major grocery store products and compared the percentages side-by-side. Here’s what we found.

A seemingly unhealthy bunch, Googlers are more likely to spend their grocery money on bacon and on ice cream than Microsoft employees are. To balance out their diet, Googlers are also more likely to buy fresh fruits and veggies. Microsoft employees, on the other hand, prefer to get their nutrients the modern way-by buying vitamins. They are also more likely to buy more basic forms of grocery vices, like butter.

What accounts for these differences? Are Googlers just a young bunch of free-eatin’ hooligans and Microsoft employees a wise group of health-conscious consumers? Our demographic data on age distributions (see below) certainly supports this hypothesis. But purchase behavior experts at Kantar Shopcom – a data integration, analytics and insights firm and a Kantar Retail company, offer another explanation. According to Kantar Shopcom, purchases like ice cream tend to be more a reflection of one’s shopping style: if you routinely buy groceries once a week, you buy fewer novelties-items that provide “fleeting pleasure” and little nutritional value. If you make quick run-ins for items when you can, you tend to buy more novelties.

Googlers might be more likely to buy ice cream and bacon due to a shopping style difference, which could itself be a consequence of age. They could also be more likely to buy ice cream and bacon as a result of the Google cafeterias – the ubiquity of delicious food at Google does not encourage a steady shopping routine. After all, Googlers can feel freer to spend their grocery dollars on novelties when their basic nutritional needs are met at work.

Could this also explain why more Microsoft employees buy butter? More of them probably cook at home in the absence of a world-class cafeteria at work, and butter is primarily used as an ingredient. Indeed, Microsoft employees are also more likely to buy the snack items that are abundant at Google: breakfast, granola and yogurt bars. The two groups show equal affinities for standard items such as nuts, spaghetti sauces and fruit jams.

Now let’s look at the brand preferences:

Googlers and Microsoft employees show the same affinity for traditional fare like Kraft products and Aunt Jemima syrups. They also score about even on the Coke/Pepsi divide. But Googlers prefer Doritos and Mountain Dew, and Microsoft employees are more likely to buy Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn.

Maybe it’s the gray-haired Orville on the label that makes Orville Redenbacher’s more popular with Microsoft employees. Labeling is never an accident. -there is likewise a reason Mountain Dew is dyed green. Brands market themselves to specific audiences and certain brands make it a point to corner the younger market-they will be around longer and have yet to solidify their brand preferences. This is the logic responsible for putting Ali Landry in Doritos commercials, and for evolving Mountain Dew from its wholesome aesthetic in the ’50s, with its “It’ll tickle your innards” slogan, to its current txt-generation stylized “Mtn Dew” label. So perhaps these brand preferences point again to the different age distributions between Google and Microsoft employees.

Or maybe children compel Microsoft employees to buy more popcorn, our partners at Kantar Shopcom pointed out. A family with kids could be more likely to buy a snack like Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn for family movie nights. This hypothesis is also supported by the higher percentage of Microsoft employees who buy Capri Sun…we are pretty sure no one drinks it past age sixteen.

Microsoft employees are more likely to buy dog and cat treats and grooming products, a tendency our expert says also correlates with a providing more for children and family. Microsoft employees are also more likely to buy grooming products for themselves – the older, the wiser.

Which brings us to demographics. Even accounting for age, more Microsoft employees than Googlers are married, and more Microsoft employees have children.

Google Status: single, no children

Marital status and family data

Not surprisingly, our demographic data showed that Microsoft employees tend to be older and Googlers tend to be younger.

Google and Microsoft are in fierce competition for the best talent. How are they faring on compensation? We found that the income distribution peaks for Googlers between $50,000-100,000 per year, whereas 40% of Microsoft employees have an income of over $150,000. The discrepancy can probably be explained by the higher proportion of married employees at Microsoft, since income reflects earnings per household.

Every company has its own personality. As we demonstrate here, Googlers and Microsoft employees have different shopping habits on the whole. So should they be getting the same coupons in their mail or email inboxes? Some of us just are not going to buy Capri Sun no matter how great of a steal it is. Of course, the differences do not stop at the company level. As individuals in this world, we all have our own set of preferences, likes and dislikes.

If we are all different, why do many companies treat us as if we are the same? How can our world become more personalized and tailored to what we want?

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