Argos’ marketing director: Brands need to embrace data-driven insight to reach consumers ‘at the right moment’

Brands need to embrace a culture based on data-driven insights in order to reach consumers “at the right moment”, according to brand marketers from BBC, BT, Mothercare, Google, Argos and TfL.

Speaking in a debate at Marketing Week Live event in London today (29 April), marketers from the UK brands spoke about the importance of “data storytelling” in order to reach customers in what has become an increasingly “fragmented” space.

James Holden, marketing and awareness director for BBC News, said that insight, or information that gives you the “ability to see the world through another set of eyes” is crucial for brands, particularly the BBC, in a world where audience platforms are constantly changing.

“We don’t want to be audience-led, but audience-informed,” he added.

Ed Best, head of insight at BT, said the brand is also looking to be better at discovering what motivates customers.

“We are by no means an example of how you do it,” he added. “We do lots of research focus groups and panels, but the real trick is to actually stand back from that and put yourself in people’s shoes.”

Understanding the customer journey

One way brands are doing this is by looking more deeply at the “crunch points” in the customer journey.

Ryan Davies, head of CRM, loyalty and insight at Mothercare and Early Learning Centre, described how the brand has used its data to paint a picture of the timeline of its customer’s purchases throughout their pregnancy, such as when they buy their first car seat.

The data has allowed the brand to develop targeted emails and events in order to reach customers “at the right time”, Davies says.

“When you think of it as a customer journey you make it a more customer-focused business,” he added.

Reaching consumers in the right place at the right time

For Andy Mihalop, head of network agencies at Google’s Doubleclick UK, developing customer insight has allowed the brand to “deliver a message in the moments that matter”.

He adds that brands today face the challenge of fragmentation, often using too many platforms to reach consumers.

“You need a single view of the customer,” he said. “You have to know your customers and connect with them in moments that matter, and make better decisions with better insights.”

Steven Vowles, marketing director at Argos, which now sees nearly 30% of its sales start from digital channels, added that reaching the consumer in the right way has been a big part of its digital transformation strategy.

Among swapping its in-store catalogues for iPads, changing its marketing creative to reach new consumers and partnering with brands such as eBay who have traditionally been considered as competitors, Vowles says the retailer’s “differentiating capability” is around its ability to “pinpoint stock accuracy”.

“This allows customers to pick up same day or have products delivered to them at home,” he adds, saying the brand is now starting to pilot the service.

Applying insights to the entire business

Ultimately, each of the brands concluded that data-driven insights should not only affect marketing strategy, but should be implemented across the entire business and create a culture that revolves around getting to the heart of customer habits.

“Insight impacts on important decisions your organisation needs to make,” Holden said.

Vowles of Argos added that a brand’s culture needs to move towards constantly looking at what the habits of its consumers are and how they are filling that need better than others.

He said that the most effective way of communicating insights to the board is by “bringing to life a real customer story and narratives and building a case around that”.

However, Chris Macleod, marketing director for Transport for London (TfL), believes that in order for marketers to communicate insights collected from data to the rest of their business they also need to “talk the language of the board” and quantify in terms of growth, cash flows and shareholder value, adding that that emphasis in marketing is often put on “outputs not outcomes”.