Gousto on developing an ‘empathetic’ data strategy

Taking an empathetic approach to data that moves beyond purely “raw conversion goals” is the key to success, says CMO Tom Wallis.

Gousto boxMarketers should shift their data strategy from A/B testing and growth hacking towards empathy, insight and offering a better customer experience, says Gousto CMO Tom Wallis.

The direct-to-consumer recipe box company, which has spent the past eight years honing its approach to data, has enjoyed a boom in business since the onset of the pandemic as customers sought at-home meal kits when the UK went into lockdown.

Reflecting on the brand’s growth since it was founded in 2012, Wallis urges other marketers to get their data in order so that it can be trusted by everyone in the company, is accurate and accessible to all.

“Trusted and accurate in the sense that everyone who uses it knows that it’s reliable and can be confident in acting upon the insights it’s giving them,” he explained, speaking today (6 October) at the Festival of Marketing.

“A really important point we’ve learnt is making it open to everybody who needs access to query and learn from it. One of the things that’s given us is a real feel among the team that they understand exactly what customers are doing and why they’re doing it. It builds up a knowledge of behaviour over time that is much more than people can get from monthly presentations.”

Getting the most out of data often starts with having the right structure in place, something Gousto has prioritised from the outset. Marketers, said Wallis, should not to be afraid to push back if the engineering team have created a dataset that is constantly having to be rearranged or reinterpreted.

“Go straight back and say, ‘Why don’t we just put that directly in there?’ so that people can get what they need as fast as possible,” he advised.

You want to make sure all your use of data is something that people will value and not recognised as something that is interruptive in an unpleasant way.

Tom Wallis, Gousto

At the start of lockdown, Gousto stopped new sign-ups to focus on getting as many boxes as possible out to existing subscribers, putting prospective customers on a waiting list and sending them the brand’s weekly newsletter to keep them engaged.

The company also joined forces with a local picking and packing business that previously delivered to restaurants, introducing supplementary service Chosen by Gousto in the space of two weeks. The service allowed Gousto to deliver a slimmed down version of its proposition to thousands of additional and existing customers each week.

Shifting from a pattern of using data simply to gain more sales and improve the conversion rate, to an approach focused on relevance and personalisation, has helped the company react to the challenges and opportunities presented by Covid-19. Wallis believes all marketers should move the conversation about data on from a “raw conversion goal” and make creating a delightful customer experience the priority. He recalled one such experience that made an impression on him.

“I recently re-ordered from a company I hadn’t used in a long time and I was previously a loyal customer. They recognised that, the data about my previous behaviour was useful and they put a personalised note in the delivery, noticing that I’d ordered a lot from them in the past and they were extremely grateful to have me back. Those little touches are things you can use to build a connection with your customers,” said Wallis.

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In order to meet its personalisation goals, Gousto has been focused on gaining insight from the data as quickly as possible. The team recognised it is crucial to suggest recommendations for new recipe boxes as soon as possible after a new customer joins. Using data science and machine learning, Gousto has been able to go from it taking 16 different recipe choices to gain a full understanding of consumer preferences, to just eight.

Another key to success, said Wallis, is using data in a way customers will appreciate, rather than simply in a way that benefits the brand.

“I’ll paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: ‘Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should’,” he stated. “Customers recognise and consent to the fact their data’s being used and in most cases are appreciative when it improves their experience, but there are some times when of course we’re using it to our own advantage and that’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

The team found, for example, that sending an SMS to customers who had abandoned their order was an effective way of defeating any issues around email open rates. Yet, while the marketers have the permission to do so, that is not necessarily the right thing to do.

“Instead, we use [SMS] for more appropriate communications, such as ‘We’ve noticed your delivery has been delayed’, or ‘We’ve noticed that an ingredient may be missing from your box’. The kind of proactive communication that’s timely and urgent when necessary is much more appreciated,” said Wallis.

“You want to make sure all your use of data is something that people will value and not recognised as something that is interruptive in an unpleasant way.”

Tom Wallis was speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which is taking place online between 5 – 9 October. All sessions, including Wallis’s, are available to watch on-demand for those with a digital pass. To buy a pass visit www.festivalofmarketing.com/buy-your-pass.