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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    SSIS/ORACLE DBA

    £400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

    Technical Systems Analyst

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride