Boots digital chief: Insight ‘must pass the T-shirt test’

Retailers’ consumer insights need to become more focused on simple outcomes that benefit their customers, rather than on the data science behind them, according to Boots’ director of loyalty and digital.

Boots
Retailers’ consumer insights need to become more focused on simple outcomes that benefit their customers, argues Boots’ loyalty and digital director Ruth Spencer.

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium’s Customer Insight conference today (13 February), Ruth Spencer, who began her career as an analyst at Shell, told fellow retailers that all insights derived from data analysis should be able to pass the ‘T-shirt test’.

“One of the things that I learned very early on working for petrol stations is that any good promotion can fit on a T-shirt,” she said, adding that those working in insight need to be able to “step outside the world of regression models” that they inhabit on a day-to-day basis.

She also warned of the limits of using ‘single customer view’ databases to understand an individual’s every interaction with a brand. “It is a bit academic trying to map all those journeys. What you’ve got to know is where the key points are, and when you should appear.”

Spencer reiterated a recurring theme at the BRC conference, stating that retailers are under pressure to turn their single customer view databases from “analytical” into “operational” projects, where the data influences how they actually serve customers, as well as just providing endless amounts of information.

Retailers have been given more leeway than banks in using customer data to create a coherent customer experience, she argued, because account holders expect to access all available services in one place through online banking, while at Boots linking up the retail, pharmacy and optician business still presents a challenge.

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