PayPal is planning an ad network built off your purchase history

You are the product, after all

PayPal will use data from billions of customer transactions to supercharge its nascent ad business.

And it sounds as though it'll work like this: PayPal will provide ways for businesses to advertise online – on websites and in apps – and use the information PayPal knows about people – their transactions, purchasing histories, etc – to target them specifically.

The new PayPal Ads group is headed by recent hire Mark Grether, a senior vice president and GM at PayPal, who says the budding advertising operation will "help make merchants smarter to sell more products and services effectively, as well as enable consumers to discover more of what they love." But, his reported statement doesn't really dwell on the fact that it will be using customer data, including purchase history, to pull this off.

For a sense of potential scope, consider this: In 2023, PayPal processed around 25 billion transactions, and has been growing its volume steadily year over year. In addition to the main PayPal platform, it also operates cash transfer app Venmo and Honey, a browser extension designed to find deals online.

"If you're someone who's buying products on the web, we know who is buying the products where, and we can leverage the data," Grether is quoted as saying. The report also mentions that Venmo will see fewer ads served in order to not drive off its younger users.

AI is also playing a part in PayPal Ads via its Advanced Offers Platform, which boasts "nearly half a trillion dollars of transaction data analyzed with AI." Advanced Offers was introduced back in January, it allows businesses to offer discounts and other promotions to users based on their spending histories, and is now reportedly going through a trial run at eBay.

The business of delivering the right ads to the right users is becoming increasingly reliant on collecting user data via different sources, and can be so robust that, for example, checking out audio books at the library can result in different ads being shown almost immediately. PayPal's data on users' purchases and other transactions, combined with AI, might prove to be great at advertising, though probably to the consternation and frustration of recipients. ®

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