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Big data just got bigger

Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

Amazon has announced its entry into the grocery sector with Amazon Go, an offline supermarket that will open in Seattle in early 2017. Four years in the planning, the concept, as you might expect from Amazon, is technology driven. Using smart technology, the internet giant is doing away with the humble checkout. As customers load products into their baskets, they are automatically uploaded to their Amazon Go app, and as they walk out of the door with their goods the balance is charged to their Amazon account. For those of us who hate queueing for a pint of milk or loaf of bread it sounds like a dream come true.

If the Seattle store proves successful and Amazon Go is rolled out nationwide, and subsequently internationally, the ramifications for almost every business sector, from retail through to financial services, could be vast. But one of the largest implications is for marketers. Amazon potentially has the largest and most powerful customer databases in existence. Already the company has captured our online behaviour – to the extent that it has filed a patent for ‘anticipatory shipping’, which will enable it to ship your next package before you even order it. Its analysts have identified from the online data that the lag time between clicking ‘Buy’ and an item’s delivery is a barrier for many customers in the purchase decision-making journey. Consequently, ensuring that a product we might want is only an hour or so away could result in a significant uplift in sales for the company.

Imagine adding to this insight a whole raft of new customer data – but from the offline environment. Combining these two datasets has the potential to make Tesco Clubcard look puny. Clubcard has long been held up as a paragon of the customer-profiling world. And so it should be. But it looks as though it could easily be overshadowed by Amazon. Definitely one to watch!