In August, BSkyB will launch its long-awaited AdSmart technology, for the first time allowing advertisers to deliver targeted ads to individual televisions and to collect data on their viewers. The broadcaster claims it represents a revolution in TV marketing, and the brands with the most consistent data analysis of their audiences will be the best placed to take advantage of the targeting opportunities.
AdSmart overlays data sets onto different ad executions so that they are personally relevant to an individual’s household profile. It will take into consideration age, location and other demographic data, and enable brands to target a variety of audience segments watching the same shows with different TV ads simultaneously.
It is just one new marketing channel likely to create big shifts in the way advertisers think about targeting across channels using data, and brewer Molson Coors is looking at Sky’s technology as a new opportunity to understand customers’ activities, preferences and behavioural patterns. Molson Coors channel director David Macklin says the challenge now for marketers is to discover how their brand is perceived across different channels by the same individual – the so-called ‘single customer view’.
“We create a lot of on-pack promotions and sponsorships and aggregate that data from different channels to learn how an individual will interact with us. This informs our future business decisions and where we place our media spend.”
Accordingly, Molson Coors measures how every customer has arrived on its database, via anything from a WiFi hot spot to a music or football sponsorship. But consistency between offline and online data is not always easy to achieve because so much online information is anonymous, which makes it difficult to accurately match with transactional data. To improve the matching of personal data and enhance targeting, brands are being encouraged to work more closely with media owners.
Dominic Grounsell, marketing director for RSA Group, owner of insurance brand More Than, says that through the supply chain more investment is needed in technology to analyse data, ensure it is consistent and put it to use for marketing purposes. He says that in financial services, robust segmentation is crucial to sell direct to consumers, but it is difficult because there are so many variables.
“It is early days, but we are seeing improvements in the matching of emails with demographic information, partly by linking what we do with media owners’ data,” he says. “The closer you can get to the media owners the more you can align your data and improve segmentation so you get the right messages in front of the right people.”
Online retailers are among the brands that have an advantage when it comes to obtaining a consistent view of their customers, because they often ask people to open an account before they shop. For the Shop Direct Group, which owns brands including Very.co.uk, Littlewoods and Isme.com, this is the primary way of linking every piece of an individual’s data.
Doubleday feels that the commonly used industry term ‘single customer view’ is ambiguous, and that if a business has a group-wide database, then this level of understanding already exists to some degree. “Our database stores all account information, purchasing information and website interaction data for every one of our customers. Of course, there is some information that isn’t yet mapped in to this picture, such as social media interaction data, so it is not a complete single customer view.”
Across the Shop Direct Group customers are first segmented into ‘static segments’ – groupings that remain the same throughout the entire life cycle of a customer’s interactions with the brands. Below this are preference-based segmentations, for example fashion buyers, and customer-based triggers such as abandoned online shopping baskets.
Doubleday wants to improve the working relationship with digital media owners so more data is shared and the media-buying process is improved. “At the moment it is trickier to access consumer demographic data for digital channels, but with close to 80 per cent of our sales now completed online it is something we’re looking at closely.”
Increasingly consumers do expect brands to have a consistent view of them as an individual, driven by the information they know they are sharing across multiple channels. Their experiences of receiving relevant recommendations from brands such as Amazon has heightened their expectations when it comes to product targeting and customer service. The sharing of data to improve matching and consistency therefore becomes crucial to improving the customer experience.
Brands that belong to the UK’s largest loyalty programme, Nectar, for example, already benefit from sharing some data which can be integrated into each partner’s own systems. Michael Poyser, global solutions director at Aimia, which owns Nectar, says it is possible to link information about how customers are interacting across different retailers, although this is data based on general shopping habits rather than specific proprietary sales data.
“To encourage shoppers to help you build that single customer view you need to reward them along the way whenever they have an interaction with your brand,” says Poyser.
He says data consistency is growing in importance as shoppers increasingly self-select the level of engagement they want with a brand or retailer and choose the offers most relevant to them. Aimia’s research reveals that being able to target more accurately not only reduces the marketing budget, but can result in a sales uplift of between 29 and 45 per cent, plus an improvement in redemption of offers of more than 30 per cent.
Better data consistency enables brands to take an ‘omnichannel’ marketing approach, where they are able to deploy campaigns across any and all media with equal alacrity. It does, however, require both a single customer view and a centralised system for customer relationship management (CRM).
This is often an area where business-to-business (B2B) brands are still trailing consumer-facing companies. Axa Wealth, for example, needed the help of agency The Marketing Practice to promote its investment platform Axa Elevate to financial advisers. The agency is working with the brand to ensure data is stored, updated and renewed consistently. Actionable insight is drawn from the data so messages are relevant to specific individuals and particular companies across the industry, and this is raising campaign response rates.
Managing director for Axa Wealth Elevate, David Thompson, says open rates and click-through rates on email campaigns have improved by about 100 per cent because financial advisers are being directly asked about what they personally need. The company has become better at drawing information from its different data sources and tracking previous customer behaviour and responses to different campaigns.
“Getting even more data consistency is a business priority for 2013,” says Thompson. “We know that building a single customer view will give us a better understanding of our customer base at a time when new regulations are coming into force that affect advisers.”
Paul Bushell, senior manager of marketing operations for EMEA at IT company VMware, agrees that keeping track of its customers’ behaviour across channels is a challenge in its marketing, but one that brings rewards in a B2B environment. VMware is investing more this year to track customer activity on social media and feeding this data into its CRM and response management systems.
“We have email addresses for our business customers but when individuals use social media they often use different emails and profiles so it can be difficult to get the consistency we need,” says Bushell. “We want to know what content they are responding to on social media and align that with their buying cycle data which we already hold.”
VMware is also one of an increasing number of organisations using progressive profiling: visitors to websites or webinars are posed new questions each time they visit a site, which means the brand gradually gains a deeper insight and the overall consistency of its data is improved.
All brands are striving for that same depth of understanding, and to learn progressively more about their customers so they only send them the most relevant of messages. Only with more consistent data on every individual they interact with is this ever likely to be achieved.
Experian research highlights that 72 per cent of UK businesses recognise the competitive advantage of using data and insight to put their customers at the heart of their business. These organisations are already exploring how a single customer view would work for them.
Yet few are currently able to fully exploit consumers’ demand for greater personalisation, or to effectively link customer data gathered across multiple channels and digital platforms to tailor marketing communications accurately.
The road to data consistency is a tough one. There is a clamour to invest in new technology, but brands must get the basics right first, which means focusing on good data quality.
Brands require an accurate view of who their customers actually are so they can discover common links and match personal information. Brands need to use ‘linkage keys’, which bond offline data with information being gathered from the online world or media owners.
Email and mobile number data are two linkage key examples, but brands must also understand how an individual interacts with different channels. A brand may be able to contact a consumer via email or mobile but will that person actually respond via that channel?
The relationship with media owners is crucial for brands. The media market will work more effectively if a common media currency exists across all channels and broadcasters.
If the sellers and buyers of audiences are working to the same, accurate descriptions of target groups, then the targeting activity will be more effective. Media owners will trade inventory more profitably, and advertisers will reach more of the customers they want more of the time.
Some brands are doing well in terms of achieving data consistency, while many transacting online or via social media are creating a valuable database for the first time. Yet all brands need to know how to make the best of the data they hold, to keep the customer at the heart of everything they do.
Last February, I left my role as head of ecommerce at Screwfix Direct to join Clarks, with a brief to link together everything the chain knows about its individual customers. It is great to see a traditional footwear retailer addressing the issue of getting its data on customers consistent.
Screwfix Direct had arguably the only genuine ‘omnichannel’ business in the country, with a seamless experience where you could order something online and pick it up from a branch in literally a few minutes. For a retail business like Clarks, which has only had an internet arm for a few years, it will mean a huge culture shift to become truly omnichannel.
We have strong online data but joining it up with the information generated by our shops is the difficult part. With our shoe-fitting proposition it makes sense to generate a consistent view of our customers so we only send them details online of products which are actually available in their size when they go into a local Clarks shop.
We already segment our audience by men, women and children and in sub-groups such as very small children who had the experience of coming into a store for their first pair of shoes. We want them to be customers throughout their school years and beyond.
Our focus is on finding out more about where our customers are, what they are doing and what devices they are using so we can send them appropriate messaging. They may be using different email addresses at home and work and we need to know if, for example, they are in price comparison mode or not. We are just starting on this journey.