Argos and Tesco have released own-brand tablets but are they simply gathering customer data?

Analysts say the retailers' move into a new market is a significant development in data-driven business and will enable the chains to add significantly to their giant data pools with the behaviour and insights of millions of customers

Not since Moses delivered slabs of stone inscribed with things thou shalt not do has there been such a zealous interest in tablets. The latter-day devices are already selling faster than any other in technology history, driven by demand for Apple's shiny and pricey iPads. But as two of the biggest high-street names launch budget rivals, analysts have asked if their primary interest might not be the democratisation of the market – but data collection.

Tesco triggered a new tablet war late last month with the launch of its Hudl device, which sold out in two days as 35,000 people snapped it up in exchange for £119, or just £60 worth of Clubcard vouchers.

Since then, the 7in device, which runs the latest version of the Android operating system, has defied expectations for a brand not associated with high technology by winning positive reviews.

Yesterday, Argos hit back with its MyTablet, which cost just £99.99 and, like the Hudl, comes preloaded with a store app. Independent analysts say the retailers' move into a new market is a significant development in data-driven business and will enable the chains to add significantly to their giant data pools with the behaviour and insights of millions of customers.

Matt Atkinson, the chief marketing officer at Tesco, which already has more than 16 million regular loyalty-card holders, says the Hudl was designed to make technology more accessible, in particular to first-time tablet users who are naturally less tech-savvy.

The firm's e-marketing promotion says the tablet "comes with easy access to the Tesco world" thanks to pre-installed apps for Tesco banking as well as Blinkbox, the supermarket's multimedia streaming service.

Matthew Rubin, a retail analyst at Verdict, says: "What the Hudl really gives Tesco is not just what people are buying but how they are buying it. It has the potential to give them locational data and the time spent browsing.

"The Tesco apps are intertwined with the device and it may give them more information than just your credit card details. The long-term potential is great – it's following the footsteps of Amazon who have been so successful on the back of customer data and insights."

Tesco's Hudl comes preloaded with a store app Tesco's Hudl comes preloaded with a store app
Steve Parker, MediaVest's managing director, says that Tesco's multi-channel strategy also promised to offer brands more data about customers and new opportunities to develop commercial partnerships.

"Having enjoyed success with Clubcard, the tablet allows Tesco to take another step towards a more seamless relationship with its customers to deliver information, value and experience," he told Media Week.

Some analysts believe that the Clubcard database is potentially more valuable than the caches of information gathered by Google and Facebook.

Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco chief executive who built the company into one of the world's largest retailers, attributed the company's success to "the ability to focus its effort around the consumer based on the use of data". In a speech to business leaders last week he said: "Around the world Clubcard is more famous than Tesco… but not enough companies are showing a mastery of data."

Predicting customers' behaviour and when they are likely to alter their buying habits is big business in itself. Tesco's customer-science company, dunnhumby, which helped to launch Clubcard, has now launched "personalisation programme products" to target Tesco customers by email.

Meanwhile, 64 per cent of organisations worldwide say they are now investing in, or plan to invest in, big data projects, according to research firm Gartner. They include John Lewis, which will launch its My John Lewis programme at the end of this month. The loyalty scheme, which the store has trialled over the past year, will present subscribers with information based on what they like while also offering rewards such as prize draws and even free tea and cake at in-store cafés.

Days before the announcement this month, John Lewis also revealed its predicted biggest sellers this Christmas. No 1: the iPad mini. The store expects record sales of tablets, also including devices from Samsung and Google (see next page for the verdict on Google's latest 7in tablet), as early adopters come in search of upgrades alongside first-time buyers.

MyTablet - Argos's foray into the budget tablet market MyTablet - Argos's foray into the budget tablet market
Blogger James Hoffman discovered how an app from Tesco's coffee shop chain Harris and Hoole could augment his drinking experience.

"When you download the app, you're informed [that] you get a free coffee (essentially the digital loyalty card has already been filled once for you)," he writes. "The app asks you what your favourite coffee is. I picked a small, black filter coffee.

"When you arrive at, or near, a location, you check in and can send your order to the till – you don't have to be inside, just close. By the time I got to the ordering point the barista asked if I was James. She then asked if I wanted to use my free drink, which I did. She then told me it was already being made and I could collect it from the second of the two coffee stations."

But while Hoffman was impressed by Tesco's coffee divining skills, he is not alone in wondering where else such intelligence leads. "I don't know what data it's collecting. Simply putting a digital, location-aware loyalty card in your customer's pockets yields interesting opportunities. As Harris and Hoole are connected to Tesco I hope it's doing more with the data. I certainly would want to. Whether we approve or knowingly consent to this data collection is a large, but separate topic."

Tesco's Clubcard privacy policy says it "will never disclose your information to anyone outside the Tesco group except where we have your consent; where we are required or permitted to do so by law; to other companies who provide a service to us".

A Tesco spokesman added: "we have strict policies in place to protect customer information and we have never, and will never, sell our customers' data.

"We do use anonymised sales data to improve the shopping trip for customers and we send out £500m of rewards to Clubcard holders every year – dunnhumby uses this anonymised data to develop insight into how customers shop and it is this insight, not individual customer data, which they may share.

"Hudl is about making tablets more accessible to more people; we do not get any data from it. We already know our customers well through research and what they choose to tell us."

Argos, which launched its tablet to coincide with the publication of its Christmas catalogue, also insists its motives are honest. Joanne Savage, head of own brands at the store, says there is no obligation to use its app.

"You don't need an Argos account to use the tablet," she says. "We've just preloaded it to make it easier for people to shop at Argos. It's the same as the preloaded Angry Birds app from a functionality point of view."

Savage says she was unfazed by the positive reviews of the rival Tesco device, which offers a higher resolution screen, twice the storage, more power and a better battery life for only £20 more than the MyTablet. Neither device, she says, is competing with the premium iPad, targeting instead families and "tweens".

"It's about time tablets got to an affordable level so anything promoting that side of the market is great," she says. "We're getting to a stage now where families are starting to buy multiple tablets per household."

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

    £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

    £45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week