Data storytelling in action: BA and Coral share their insight

Insight and analytics stand at the forefront of brand success today. Ahead of Marketing Week’s Data Storytelling Conference and Awards British Airways and Coral share their data strategies.



In the age of the customer, forward thinking brands are harnessing data for a number of winning business initiatives. High levels of conversions, increased loyalty and superior retention all add meaning to that story.

With impactful commercial results top of mind, British Airways’ marketing team is working to isolate the most relevant information within the data it holds.

“Everybody on [one of our] planes has got a story,” says Debra Walmsley, head of customer research and insight at British Airways. “Understanding those stories allows us to empathise and walk in the shoes of those customers so we can better shape the products and services we develop.”

Defining customer touchpoints

Three years ago Walmsley’s team initiated ‘Project Carousel’, an in-depth study of customer journeys, presented internally as a series of short and engaging films.

“We have been looking at journeys from a customer perspective and how the customer defines a journey ‘touchpoint’,” explains Walmsley.

“We examine what is important for them at each of these touchpoints and how they feel. We also look at where the gaps are and where we could act, either by elevating a nice part of the journey or ironing out some of the bumps in the road.”

By communicating the crucial elements of the human story effectively to internal decision-makers, the brand can use the data to drive strategy.

These are stories such as the Gold Card-holder who talks very candidly about how he has taken time out of his job to take his daughter to ballet on the morning of his flight, which allows people to connect with those individuals and think about what is going to make that journey experience better, she says.

Bringing data to life

“Real insight is what is going to move your business forward,” adds Walmsley. “A lot of organisations communicate [using] data but it’s the engagement element that brings it to life and we focus heavily on that.”

British Airways is leveraging data’s potential through a philosophy of ‘communicate, engage and activate’. Walmsley’s team has created an additional planning framework around Project Carousel, geared at activating the data. At this stage, it will look at the key drivers across the journey in terms of net promoter score.

“So if, for example, a big driver is crew service we look at how our customers are feeling at this point of the journey,” says Walmsley. “We examine what we have discovered from Carousel about the journey experience and can explore where to make changes to our product and service based on the things that really matter.”

Ultimately data is used to deliver customers exactly what they want, making them feel recognised and appreciated, she adds.

Using CRM data to track expectations

But that doesn’t come without challenges, according to Tania Seif, head of social marketing at bookmaker and gaming business Gala Coral Group, who reckons communicating with people on mobile can be seen as intrusive if it is not done effectively.

“With 90% of our audience seeing Coral branded messages via their mobile phone rather than desktop, the fundamental challenge of social media is how we use it,” she says.

“Marketers need to think carefully about what customers would consider to be spam on their mobile phone and what they would consider of value.”

Coral Casino

Coral’s betting and gaming products have a presence on social media and online so the brand uses a significant amount of data to inform its advertising choices. Since 2013 it has been using CRM data to target paid advertising on social media channels, which is proving particularly effective for customer retention.

“At Coral we have such an array of different products across all sports but then also in things like casino, bingo and poker,” explains Seif. “By using the CRM data we are actually ensuring that the paid ads we put out on social media are only being shown to customers that want to see that advertising in terms of its relevancy.”

So, if a customer regularly interacts with the betting brand on its football product but never on its casino product, Coral won’t show them casino advertising on social media.

Creating personal messages

All paid advertising, which accounts for around 51%, is completely targeted to personal preferences. That targeting is very much based on how the customer has interacted with the brand online.

The result of this approach is a significant reduction in media costs, which has been achieved through a process of reducing wastage on exposure of ads to non-relevant groups and non-active customers, as well as targeting via device.

The brand has also increased frequency and loyalty. “We have an active social media community and within this 87.5% have placed a bet or gamed with Coral over one of our customer channels in the last month,” says Seif. “Over 50% have done so via a mobile phone, an increase from 25% in 2013.”

When a customer has relevant and effortless interactions with a brand, they are both part of a rewarding journey.

“Data storytelling means communicating your brand in a meaningful way to your customers,” adds Seif. “Using your data to inform decisions so that you are giving them an experience or product [that is] relevant, convenient or of value.”

Linking data sets

Most large organisations hold a mass of data from distinct parts of the business and the real challenge for marketers is how to link different pieces together into something that is significant for the business, but get it right and it will improve customer experience and ultimately the bottom line.

As these stories show, the first chapters of the data revolution are required reading but the next ones will prove even more gripping.

“Our research shows that we have gone from a situation where data was primarily used to describe the past and to find ways to save costs, to one where data is helping businesses to predict the future and identify new opportunities,” says Juan Mateos-Garcia, economics research fellow at innovation charity Nesta.

“The impacts are strong; according to our analysis, companies that use their data actively are over 10% more productive than those that don’t.”

So the ultimate recipe for success? Good data, great analysis and compelling storytelling.

Juan Mateos-Garcia, economics research fellow at innovation charity Nesta will be joining Debra Walmsley, head of customer research and insight at British Airways and Tania Seif, head of social marketing at Gala Coral Group to share success stories at Marketing Week’s Data Storytelling Conference and Awards in September

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