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.

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.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here