Marketers turning data streams into business strategy

Data has the power to add incredible value to a brand’s offerings, but only if marketing departments meet the challenge of making maximum use of it.

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Data is the topic of conversation on everybody’s lips. Facebook continues to shunt its “back and forth” policy on the amount of users’ data it shares with third parties as it seeks a position that will quell irate privacy campaigners. Google too is busy dousing negative PR after the multinational admitted to accidentally capturing wi-fi data from its “streetview” cars.

But in the right hands, data is power. Used cleverly it can add incredible value to a brand’s offerings and engender great loyalty among customers.

Potential benefit
Some marketers say their brands are only now beginning to appreciate the potential benefits they can deliver to customers by bringing together all the data they own from across the business.

Ladbrokes marketing director Adam Collett says the bookmaker is creating a “single customer view” across the business but that it could be some time before the arduous task bears fruit.

Collett is working with his team to combine the view he has of Ladbrokes’ retail customers alongside the same view of its online customers. He says that pulling the two sets of data together and understanding the customer across all channels will be key to the bookmaker’s future.

But serious challenges lie ahead for any marketing department aiming to make more of customer data. Data is not always a marketing asset, rather it exists in pockets, some of which sit within other parts of the business.

Integrated approach
Any intention of using all the data available in an integrated way to see what can be achieved takes cross-departmental buy-in.

Alistair Blaxhill, executive director of integrated communications specialist Communisis, says: “A single customer view is ultimately about taking all the data you have about your clients and putting it together in one place, then overlaying external data to make sure you keep it valid.

The barriers to that are clearly internal ownership of multiple databases.”

Blaxhill acknowledges that the best of marketing intentions can break down because the comprehensive and relevant use of data is a wider business issue within an organisation, not a single departmental issue.

Indeed, as far as some marketers are concerned, the outcomes should inform a wider business strategy as opposed to simply marketing strategy. They believe the entire business should own data in order to create a single customer view that adds true value to a customer.

Jess Burney, media subscriptions director at BBC Magazines, says the BBC Worldwide – the BBC’s commercial arm – took two years to build a single customer view and is now enjoying the benefit. But it cannot just be marketing that takes responsibility for data use.

“Data has to be at the heart of all operations. The more data you capture, the more the customer expects from you,” she says. “A customer will get angry if any of the points get it wrong.”

Burney says that having a comprehensive customer database has helped grow BBC Magazines from 300,000 to almost 1 million subscriptions. “Having that insight and understanding of different segments of consumers has been critical. We’ve got a business where a brand like Gardeners’ World could have a live event, it will have reader offers, a magazine subscription, newsstand sales and a website. We see all those benefits.”

However, the use of data needs to be managed and led from somewhere within the business. Many marketers feel that data is a brand management tool and that it should be the marketing department as opposed to the IT department that leads from the front.

Collett says all efforts within Ladbrokes to breed better practice from the gathering of customer data is being led by marketing.

Marketing takes lead
BSkyB’s media data and analysis director Simon Kaffel was instrumental in implementing his brand’s single customer view which is now key to a developing business strategy. “Sky was very much marketing driven in terms of developing its database. Marketing took on the role of providing a level of governance over that data and ensuring we are not misusing it.”

  • Parts of this news analysis form the basis of a wider feature on data to be published in Marketing Week in the next few weeks.

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