Data analysis: Hidden Treasure

In their quest for greater efficiency, brands are uncovering a wealth of information they didn’t know they possessed.

Marketers don’t necessarily need to follow a complicated map to uncover the nuggets of data that will transform their brand. Many of them are already sitting on a goldmine that, once exploited, can be used to drive growth and cut costs.

Every day, brands are generating data about their customers and performance that, with the right analysis, could drastically improve the effectiveness of their marketing. One that recently found new ways to make its data work harder is, which has switched from a manual search marketing strategy to an automated one.

According to marketing director Richard Garrod, this is not only cost-effective, but gives his team more hours to focus on alternative ways of maximising profits.

Instead of trying to spot trends by trawling through spreadsheets, the online pharmacy is now able to analyse this existing treasure trove of data using an automated system provided by Marin Software to ensure its search marketing strategy is effective. (See case study below).

In a similar vein, the insurance brand Aviva has reviewed the search marketing strategy of its annuity product with the help of media agency ZenithOptimedia, resulting in a 121 per cent increase in telephone enquiries generated by paid search in the third quarter of 2013. The cost per call has dropped commensurately by 53 per cent.

Marcus Evangelou, digital marketing development manager at Aviva, says that by linking up online and offline data it can now see the whole customer journey. He and his team have racked up improved results already and the findings have changed Aviva’s approach to its content marketing strategy.

Struggling to track which marketing channels had pushed someone to make a call, the insurer needed help when it came to directing its marketing spend. It turned to ResponseTap, an agency that specialises in call tracking and web analytics, to link the data together and determine which aspects of its marketing had been most effective.

By analysing unique visitor phone numbers, the agency can tell the time that a customer called and when in the customer journey they decided to make that call. This can be done using data generated in the course of the customer’s enquiry, which Aviva could have been exploiting long ago, had it the means to analyse it. By doing so, Aviva has now discovered the importance of communicating in a way that can easily be understood.

With 250 websites worldwide, BAE Systems was worried about lack of control, brand clarity and security

For instance, when Aviva’s annuities are marketed online the company now more commonly uses the word ‘pension’, which is how people talk about it in colloquial terms, even though annuities and pensions are technically different products.

“We can all be guilty of thinking that the way we talk about things internally is how we should be communicating to customers,” says Evangelou. “What this [project] has driven is a change in content strategy.”

It is only when people talk to Aviva about the product on the phone that the term ‘annuity’ is introduced. Evangelou points to the rise in telephone calls as an example of this strategy’s success, because this is a product that can be purchased only over the phone.

While being able to piece together the data from online and offline channels can give brands an overview of the complicated customer journey, in some cases it is the online route that needs ironing out. This was the case for defence, aerospace and security giant BAE Systems, which had plenty of information available online but held in several places.

In 2011, the British multinational had amassed 250 websites globally because each of its eight business units was responsible for managing its own sites. As well as making the brand inconsistent and creating problems with online data tracking, this also prompted concerns about security risks. With more than 200 third-party agencies responsible for maintaining the sites, there was a lack of control and brand clarity.

Andrew Ratcliff, executive manager of BAE Systems Detica – the parent company’s business and technology consulting firm – explains why managing the websites on a single platform was deemed essential.

“Back in 2011, we knew that we would want social media integration and local language capabilities at a later stage, so we needed the reassurance that the technology we deployed would allow us to achieve this,” he says.

“We also knew that with the fast-changing technology landscape, we needed a platform with a robust and innovative roadmap [for future development].”

Once a new platform to support the website had been deployed, London-based information management company Infomentum looked at more accurate search capabilities and segmentation of content. The next step was the integration of BAE Systems’ website with social media, introducing links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the first time.

“Integration with social media is vital to demonstrate that we are keeping pace with the digital world, but it also opens up additional channels where we can communicate directly with our audiences,” says Ratcliff.

Importantly, information can be tracked from a central location, making it easier to understand what is driving people to the site. There has been a “significant growth in site traffic” notes Ratcliff, adding that the approach to search engine optimisation is also consistent across the site.

Driving users or customers to a website is a fine art and by analysing the everyday data generated, brands can shed light on how shoppers were motivated to go to a particular website.

Online marketplace eBay is going one step further by using analysis of its pre-existing data on customer behaviour to guess what people might buy in future, according to its UK head of advertising, Phuong Nyugen. By overlaying demographic data with behavioural insights, he says the business can understand what will motivate buyers at different points in their lives.

Nyugen describes this as “life-stage” targeting, capable of marketing to various social groups such as new parents, university students and pensioners. He says that in taking this approach, eBay has been able to uncover shopping behaviours and needs and to tailor its advertising accordingly. 

“Consumer insights present a huge opportunity for brands,” he says. “Understanding how people shop and what they buy online gives marketers a much richer insight into their customers’ shopping habits and interests. This allows marketers to develop more sophisticated and ultimately more relevant advertising campaigns that complement their customers’ shopping experience.

“Marketers now have the tools and insights to target customers based on their life stage, interests and purchase motivation, rather than by age and gender stereotypes.”

In practice, shopping habits that have been previously taken for granted have, on closer inspection, been shown to be incorrect.

ChemistDirect switched from manual to automated paid search to better manage keyword data on its 20,000 health and beauty products

“Behavioural insight is particularly useful for identifying new or surprising customers that sit outside a brand’s core audience,” adds Nyugen. “For example, on eBay we saw more than 47,000 searches for ski equipment by the over-60s in the first five months of this year – a valuable audience that sports brands could easily have overlooked if they relied on older targeting models.”

By understanding that a significant number of pensioners enjoy winter sports, brands can target this group with particular messages at the right time of year to encourage purchases that relate to that pastime. But when it comes to predicting the future, some common sense combined with data analysis can be applied too.

“The ability to overlay demographic data with behavioural insights also allows marketers to pre-empt future purchases,” says Nyugen. “Take, for example, young female shoppers buying maternity clothes. Brands can reasonably infer that they will be in the market for prams and bottles in a few months’ time – invaluable intelligence for a baby brand.”

Combining different types of data is something Procter & Gamble did in the US to work out why sales of its Pampers nappies were falling. Realising that it didn’t have all the data to hand to understand why buyers weren’t staying loyal, it combined the sales volume data it already held with the findings of a small qualitative study using a mobile app produced by Revelation Global, which tracked consumers’ everyday use of the brand. The two data sets revealed why sales fell when parents switched to buying a bigger size (see case study, below. As a result, the business was able to understand that the transition from one size to another required better communications on shelf and adjustments to its nappy design.

Adding a new source of qualitative insight to its existing goldmine of sales data has made a real difference to the way P&G markets Pampers.

Similarly, most marketers are likely to find that delving into neglected everyday data before committing to a big campaign or product launch can make a massive difference to their company’s results.

Case study: Pampers

Parental guidance


Sometimes you know that something isn’t right, but the data isn’t telling you the whole story. That was the challenge for Procter & Gamble (P&G) in the US when it saw that sales of its Pampers nappies were falling as purchasers moved up a size.

Technical and design data showed that it was not a sizing issue and that there were enough sizes to cater to the needs of a growing baby. So to work out the reason for the decline, the brand team needed to combine its existing data with a new way of collecting insights from parents.

Andrew Sauer, principal researcher at P&G, says the drop was initially a mystery “because it was difficult to pinpoint the cause from the data available”. He adds: “There was something strange going on with the nappy sizing, but it wasn’t something that we could put our finger on. There was volume data that showed a drop in sales so we set up a research project to try and find the cause.”

According to Sauer, the company needed to capture data from parents just as they were deciding that their baby needed to move up a size, and turned to a mobile research app made by Revelation Global. In a qualitative study lasting four months, P&G recruited parents who were using the smaller size and waited for them to make a change.

“You can’t really recruit mums who are inbetween sizes, so the only way to figure it out without influencing the mums was to recruit them in the smaller size and wait,” says Sauer. “We didn’t want to guide them and suggest there might be a problem.”

When parents decided to shop for the next size up, they were asked to note their experience for P&G. Their activities included diaries and weekly assignments.

“Mums were struggling because [the next size up] was shaped so differently,” says Sauer. They were switching brands because they were looking for a better fit. It also transpired that the next size up was difficult to find on the shelf.

Adjustments have been made to nappy sizes and the packaging has now been revamped. Sauer says P&G is also looking at ways to help mothers to select the correct size for their baby.

Case study:

Finding the right words

Until recently, the online pharmacy business was running its search marketing strategy manually. Search campaigns had become extremely time-consuming for its marketing team and did not make the best use of the data available.

The company, led by former senior executive Stuart Rowe, initially looked at how the job could be managed better in-house, but found that such a move would require three additional staff and a significant increase in its marketing budget.

Its marketing director, Richard Garrod, instead turned to Marin Software, a paid search management platform, in an effort to optimise the bids on keywords by managing its paid search strategy in an automated way.

By using data that the brand had already collected on the return on investment of specific search keywords, the online chemist could ensure that any marketing investment was directed towards the most profitable channels.

The marketing team went from drowning in endless Excel spreadsheets to being able to identify trends in the data. By filtering the data collected on the Marin Software interface, it was easier to spot precisely what was having an impact on campaigns.

This not only made the data collected more efficient and effective, it freed up marketers to focus on improving growth. “By managing the data in an automated way, it left the rest of the team who had been previously managing the search marketing manually to concentrate on new areas,” says Garrod.

“As a result, we were able to expand into product listing ads, as well as mobile search and the Google Display Network. This meant we could target more customers across multiple channels – thereby increasing our reach.

“This was valuable for us because the time reinvested in expanding campaigns into new channels generated a 20 per cent increase in the volume of sales coming from the Google Display Network.

“It also drove our mobile marketing to a position where it now accounts for a third of traffic to the site.”

With 20,000 health and beauty products sold via the site and half a million keywords to manage, the switch from manually collecting the search data to automating it has made it much more manageable.

That’s important, because this is a time when the brand needs to focus its resources on rapid expansion following a £6m cash injection from investors such as the Daily Mail publisher DMG Media.

According to, automating has reduced the time spent managing campaigns by 60 per cent, which means that rather than wasting money on the labour-intensive task of sifting through data, the firm can invest in expanding its product range.


Partnerships, not pitches

Tess Waddington

The best measure of success in pitching should be fewer pitches – a concept that might be counter-intuitive for heads of new business.This is why the IPA is developing a joint industry model charter from which clients and agencies can cherry pick to suit their needs. By making our client agency relationships work better, we can […]