Data technology means marketing is at a tipping point

Lucy Handley is Marketing Week’s deputy features editor and has also worked in advertising agencies so can bring a unique perspective to client-agency relationships when writing on this topic.

Social media will soon be able to link with CRM systems – meaning more personal communication with people.

Would you be freaked out if you rang a call centre to check on an order for a sofa, and the person on the end of the phone said: “I see that you are having a party this weekend, would you like to rent some extra chairs from us?”

Or would you welcome the fact that the company was anticipating your needs before you even knew what you wanted, having seen your Facebook status talking about the party?

This might not be as far-fetched as it sounds – and it goes a lot deeper than the call centre handler physically searching for your Facebook profile, while looking up your details on a customer relationship management system.

Anthony Mullen (below right), a senior analyst for interactive marketing at Forrester, says this kind of ‘social CRM’ may not be too far away for brands.

“Social messaging platforms like Buddy Media were all operating in isolation and the outgoing messaging – email for example – wasn’t really informed by the back-end CRM, including what product you had, your customer history and things like that,” he explains.

“We are seeing a lot of these social media messaging platforms now starting to integrate with the back-end CRM. We are going to see a lot more of that this year – most of the major providers are working on doing that.”

This means that marketing is at an exciting tipping point. Mullen talks about advertising actually becoming ‘advice’ for someone, based on the idea that, in a few years’ time, a brand will know so much about that customer that it can advise that person what to buy next pretty accurately.

Philips Healthcare works with software provider SAP for its CRM systems and its social media strategist in the global integrated communications team, Clive Roach, says it is integrating Twitter into this. Roach welcomes this move because it means his teams can relate what someone is doing or saying on social media with their buying habits.

But he warns that people have different types of persona on the various social media sites, and that analytics must be used carefully to work out what these are.

“It is important to try and identify the business persona of somebody. Two of my Twitter accounts are business-related and one is consumer. Someone might put the odd business tweet on their personal profile – so that does make that matching exercise a bit more difficult.

“It is important to try and make that match. Tone of voice is something we use when we create our own accounts and we should be mindful of that in reverse when we are hooking these personas up to our CRM systems,” he notes.

Unilever is also looking at systems that can connect up social media and CRM. Debbie Weinstein, its senior director of global media innovation says the technology is in its infancy – and that she must consider ‘scaled solutions’ that have the potential to work across the 400 brands in 190 countries it operates.

When it comes to privacy and data, Unilever takes the ‘highest common denominator’ view, so will apply the most stringent rules to its communications. So it might apply the stricter rules of Germany to its UK-specific websites, for example, because ‘it is the right thing to do’, according to Weinstein.

Some companies are finding out more about their customers under individual country’s data laws. One topic that Forrester’s Mullen talks about is how retailers are experimenting with analysing CCTV footage of shoppers, doing things like tracking the number of customers in one place, how many repeat visitors there are and their dwell time.

The footage can be fed through a video analytics box, under existing CCTV laws, which can reveal “age, gender, what ads they are looking at, premium places to put products, dwell time, how they are interacting with displays, black spots, the most popular entrance, how buying patterns change, how tills are used, who is a good salesperson or the ratio of sales people to consumers,” according to Mullen.

Citroen used image recognition technology in a pop-up shop in the Westfield London shopping centre last year – resulting in a shortlist for a Marketing Week Engage Award 2012 – where it could track the sex, age profile, dwell time and movement patterns of visitors.

“People ask how you can hook up on and offline and get a common view and this is one of the technologies allowing you to do it. Are they picture-matching people against a Facebook ID? Not yet, but in two years they will be,” claims Mullen.

The marketers that can make the most of the new developments – within the new privacy laws and without freaking consumers out – will be winners.

Anthony Mullen, Debbie Weinstein and Clive Roach are speaking at Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Summit on Wednesday 23 May 2012.

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