New Year’s resolutions for 2019 when it comes to data and technology

The beauty of my role in CRM and Data is that I get to help brands who have a genuine desire to simply do things better. As a consequence, I get to work and meet like-minded CRM and data focused individuals. They might work with organisations who are part of the tech ecosystem needed to support the brand’s objectives ; who share common interests on LinkedIn or who attend the DMA North Council on which I sit.

So I thought I would take the opportunity to ask some of them this simple question: ‘What should brands New Year’s resolutions be for 2019 when it comes to data and technology?’

April Mullen Director at Selligent Marketing Cloud

Their resolution should be ‘’ I will make cross-channel messages and journeys more effective’’

Artificial intelligence continues to be a trending topic for marketers. Although the industry is still in its AI infancy, 2019 will be a year where AI experimentation and application begins to take off.

What is AI going to make possible? Content optimization is an obvious area where AI can have an impact. Using machine learning, AI applications are able to make decisions on the types of offers and content shown to segments or even individuals. That’s just the beginning. Just as what’s contained within a message is dynamic, the journey will begin to develop a dynamic path based on an individual consumer’s needs. Journeys won’t be a mapped and static experience with linear pathing. The future of journeys using AI is analogous to building the sidewalk where the beaten down path has developed. Think of it as real-time optimization. It’s exciting to see the dream consumer experience that marketers have long desired to deliver finally becoming reality as a result of AI.

Tom Howes - Director, Enterprise Sales Persado

Conversion data through email campaigns, has shown at great lengths, the ineffectiveness and overexposure of poor performing 'urgent' language. The drop off is even worse in paid media.

Brands need to think twice before using “HURRY: THESE DIAMONDS ARE SELLING FAST!” and “Cold Feet? Buy these socks ASAP!” People in 2019 don’t want to be told to buy on a deadline — even if the creative is good and your text is in all caps. Be sure to test other emotions as well. 

And guess what.. AI can be used today to enable your marketing team to do this effectively with little effort

Scott Logie - Managing Director, REad Group Insight

Brands need to take note of the increase in self-service technologies in 2019. This technology allows businesses to run important services automatically and effectively

The first is the use of AI and machine learning, which will automate contact strategies and customer profiling; enabling businesses to ensure that they are targeting the right people. The technology will become less expensive and therefore more accessible, meaning more organistions will have the ability to use it, not just the big ones.

The other key development in 2019 will be the use of Data-as-a-Service (DaaS), a technology that will give access to wider data sets for cleaning, profiling and data tagging. Under GDPR, there is an increased emphasis on the requirement to keep data held on customers clean and up-to-date.  DaaS enables data cleaning to be done automatically, in real-time, without staff having to manually process large data sets, enhancing productivity and data security. DaaS results in more intelligent and cost effective use of data.

Brands need to look at the use of open-source data for identifying geographic areas of focus. Some will even be able to use personal health data from fitness trackers, allowing insurance companies and other organisations to better understand target audiences, as well as to use and predict travel data to help decide on advertising locations.

Duncan Muir - Head of B2B CRM Enablement Standard Life

They should consider how to use their rich insights and data to ensure there’s recognition of the customers previous interactions to inform relevant and timely future interactions. Engaging with context is the way to build and grow relationships

Chris Johnston - CEO Adoreboard

Brands need to think customer touch-point rather than channel. Their first resolution should be to go the extra mile to discover all the customer touch-point with your brand. This will force them to test assumptions rather than assume the customer journey. In many cases that might mean having  to collect new data as they identify new gaps.

The  second resolution should look at the holistic view of customer rather than as data points. This might mean exploring emotional drivers of customers or getting out to speak with customers directly. They need to discover how  customers feel and why.

Business impact first. The final resolution is to communicate the business impact of data and not the data itself. This is should be a shift from actionable insight to decision ready insight. The insight  generated from the data should be connected to the business context. This will enable a move from what many experience as recommendation fatigue to empowering decision makers to actually prioritise the decisions they need to make. By connecting these decision ready insights through narratives rather than raw data they’ll create immense value for your firm in the year ahead.

Paul Meersman - Head of Marketing CDS

If brands should be making New Year’s Resolutions on how to use data in 2019 they should first look at how they intend to measure ROI. As companies invest in data analytics systems they need to prove how these systems are impacting their bottom line. Companies are also struggling with legacy systems. These two issues have to be tackled before they can use data to drive their business strategy so that data gives them a competitive edge

Thanks to everybody who contributed, it makes great reading

Retail Personalisation

When we think of personalisation in Retail we obviously need to think of data. Traditional data in the form of Demographic, Profile, Behavioural and Transactional; but we need to consider the new boys on the block, Contextual and Emotional.

Contextual personalisation will allow marketers to deliver messages, content and experiences based on where the customer is. This might mean based on type of location – a retail outlet, whether that be on a high street or a shopping mall or other factors based around location, for example weather. For the former digital displays could now reflect the status of the store as well as the context of location and surrounding stores, whether they be competitive or complementary. In fact, those messages could also be based on the individual and their previous purchase history (Transactional Data).

The actual weather in that location can obviously be used to entice you into buying that North Face waterproof or a warming latte.

Understanding the emotions that a consumer is exhibiting in response to products (Joy, Surprise, Anger, Confusion?) will allow brands to target communications either real time or as a follow up.

For most consumers, omni-channel experiences are now a given, but the issue marketers have is recognising a customer when they are ‘offline’ in a bricks and mortar environment. The solution needs to focus on the thing we have with us 24 hours a day. No, not mobile phones, faces!

If we want to look to the future and how this might all come together then need to look East.

Brands in China and Hong Kong are using cameras with Facial Recognition capability (yes AI) to identify individuals and then combining for example online browsing history to allow informed conversations with store staff.

Alibaba and Guess have Fashion AI that combines facial recognition into ‘magic mirrors’ in changing rooms. It allows customers to essentially see what clothes look like on without trying them on. Recommendations on other options can also be based on local weather, gender and age .

But of course aiding a sale can also be delivered by making the transaction itself easier. Alibaba has launched an experimental cashier-less store called “Tao Café’’ where customers give permission for facial recognition to essentially to be used to facilitate payments without queuing. (Amazon Go’s queueless shopping experience has people queuing to use it!)

And a little bit less East, Zara is already experimenting with automated in-store order pick-up at its new flagship store in London’s Westfield Stratford shopping mall. Customers can scan their order QR code or provide a pin number to activate an automated warehouse behind the store, which uses robots to find the package and drop it into a collection mailbox.

The key is to use data and technology to deliver a customer experience based on who they are, where they, what they need.

Value of Data

A subject being debated at the moment at the DMA (I sit on the DMA North Council) is the value of data.  

Brands have had a place on the company balance sheet for a numbers of years now. One of the most influential measures of the value of a brand comes from Interbrand who define brand valuation with three key components: The

  1. Financial performance of the branded products or services

  2. Role the brand plays in purchase decisions

  3. Brand’s competitive strength.

So why not data on the balance sheet?

Should we place a value on the size of the database, or the customer details it holds, or an organization’s capabilities in using it. In my world of CRM it is second nature to place a value on an email address or a customer’s lifetime value. Value can also be derived from the CRM data itself to generate sales as anyone who received easyJet’s anniversary email from a couple of years ago would remember or who get the Trip Advisor email informing you that you are in their top 10%. 

Of course, value can also be viewed in another way. With the recent GDPR coming into force, organizations need to understand the implications of not having their data and systems in order. Data breaches are getting bigger and bigger (Are you one of the Facebook 50 million?)

 No matter how you value it, data is the lifeblood of most organizations. 

Which then suggests we need to answer the question as to what is the value consumers should place on their data? 

We all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that the so-called free services we get from Google, Amazon, Hotmail come with a hidden cost. Whether we realize or not (and we do realize it don’t we?), there is an exchange taking place. We get free search/email/shopping experiences in exchange for our data. This exchange is vital to the economies of the aforementioned brands. Its estimated that Facebook collects $240 from every American adult. This estimate was made by Wibson, a decentralized data marketplace that provides individuals a way to securely and anonymously sell validated private information in a trusted environment. 

So, what if brands changed their model and put a tangible price on your data. Not so far fetched. Shiru a Japanese coffee chain  provides free drinks to university students in exchange for personal data that they share with companies interested in hiring those student. In fact, according to Shiru’s website  ‘We have specially trained staff members who give students additional information about our sponsors while they enjoy their coffee’’

 Who would have thought that one pillar of the cashless society would be one in which the exchange of data would play a part

Marketers, drunks and rats' tails.

A policeman sees a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. the drunk explains that he is looking for his keys. After a while the policeman asks if he definitely lost them there. The drunk replies no. So the policeman asks him why he is searching there. The drunk replies’ because this is where the light is’’

What as marketers can we learn from this?

Essentially that if we put our focus on what’s easy to measure then we’re going to miss out what is actually of value to us. Email opens and clicks, retail footfall mean nothing without an understanding of the impact they have on the KPIs higher up in the hierarchy, Sales, NPS etc.

What about the rat tails?

Hanoi 1902 and the outbreak of Bubonic plague led to the authorities offering a bounty for every rat tail handed in. Thousands of tails were brought in.

But is seemed the rat population actually increased, in particular rats without tails! In fact some rat-catchers even began breeding rats specifically for the bounty offered. The rat population continued to swell and the bounty program was discontinued.

Poorly created targets and KPIs will often instill the wrong behaviour in our own organisations . A short term view will only have a detrimental impact on what we are trying to achieve in the long term.

Put simply, don’t just value what you can measure, measure what is of value. Deliver rats, not rat tails

Conversations about Data

A day doesn’t go by when I read about great examples of how organisations are using data to improve their business and enhance the experience that their customers are getting

This is often driven not necessarily driven by big data but by using data fast and smart.

What rarely gets talked about in public is the way that fast and smart data is used internally by business to understand the impact of their decisions. Luckily I was able to attend an Econsultancy Roundtable where this was one of the many topics being discussed

Described as the Data Driven Marketing Roundtable I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with a variety of high street name brands as well as data and digital platform suppliers. It was fascinating to hear some of the issues organisations have in understanding the value of the data that they hold.

A perennial dilemma seems to be the idea of whose data to believe. With so many different stakeholders involved from product teams, to channel owners and functional departments each vies to prove that their version of the ‘truth’ is the correct version. If anything the proliferation of channels has made things worse.
And of course this expansion in the number of new channels starts to pit old channels versus new, with many of the more ‘traditional ‘ channels such as direct mail and email trying to fight their cause against social and programmatic when it comes to proving who is driving revenue and hence whose budget needs to be protected.

The new ‘digital’ kids on the block (well perhaps not that new these days) think they know best, as do the die-hards who have been working in an organisation in tried and tested channels over a number of years.
I know from experience that bringing the 2 of these together involves an education process that shows each of them the value that they can each bring to the table. Indeed an education programme throughout the business can help inform and inspire not just marketers about what can actually be achieved in relatively short time-frames.

Unearthing the real value of the data and the data teams themselves is not achieved overnight. Often organizations can achieve big successes by starting with small, low-risk projects where value is added incrementally to existing reporting, coupled with a gradual increase in the number and scale of projects as they create awareness of the capability build knowledge and instill confidence. It’s just as much as about data culture as availability of data and platforms

Scale of projects also means moving away from just delivering numbers and starting to add insight to those numbers. But insight can only be delivered by combining data and providing the data teams with some background. Without knowing the where we’ve come from and why we are doing something it is very difficult to deliver the so what and so what next?!

Talking of ‘where we’ve come from’, it stills seems laughable that marketers still expect analysis to be available even without the original input from the analysis teams to help steer framework setting and data collection. If we haven’t been able to collect  historical data in the right way, please don’t assume trends or comparisons can be made!

And one last thought for those of you who think that by buying the right tech or software can eliminate all the hassle, right? Think again; without enough analytics resource you’re not going to reap the benefits of that GA 360 investment

A clever blend of data is key to building loyalty

Whenever I go to York railway station and decide I want a coffee, I make the subconscious choice to go to Starbucks rather than any of the other outlets. Is this because I feel loyalty to Starbucks? No – it’s because I can get my espresso in a china cup rather than a paper one. At what point does a customer become loyal to a particular brand, anyway? Do they ever actually think: ‘I’m loyal to Brand X’? I’m not sure we have these conscious Road to Damascus moments. 
However, buying coffee is often dictated by availability – and being desperate enough to choose the lesser of many evils. More considered choices, such as supermarket, insurance provider or next car purchase, are much more likely to bring loyalty into the equation.

We often talk about ‘choice architectures’ during the decision-making process, in which defaults, frames and price anchors have a bearing on consumer choices. Ideally, brands want our decisions to be based on experiences we have had with that brand, product or service. The abundance of data now available to brands gives them the opportunity to influence, and hopefully enhance, the experience that customers have. As a result, they can have a positive influence when that customer comes to re-evaluate their needs.

Take car insurance. Aviva offers Drive, an app that monitors driving skills. Once the driver has completed 200 miles, they get an individual score out of 10 based on things such as cornering, braking and acceleration. Drivers who score 7.1 or more save an average of £170 on Aviva’s comprehensive car insurance. So this piece of IoT thinking (a mobile phone in my car) not only potentially makes me a safer driver but could also save me money. Forget the tricks of behavioural economics theory on the insurance quote page – I’m in.

What would prevent me from cancelling my gym membership? Personalised prompts from my gym to keep coming back if I start missing sessions are useful. So the fact that gyms like Pure Gym provide usage statistics like this means that they can use the data to understand my behaviour and react when that behaviour changes.

And if one of the reasons I don’t come in is because I hate when it’s too busy to use my favourite machines, why not let me know when it’s busy so I can plan my sessions accordingly?

One of the biggest issues Telco companies have when considering churn is the impact of ‘bill shock’, when a customer is distraught at the size of their mobile phone or data usage bill. And yet, data can tell them in advance when a customer is likely to go over their minute or data limit. My bank warns me when I’m in danger of going overdrawn, therefore my Telco provider can easily do the same thing.
In a similar vein, my credit card provider reminds me when I haven’t looked at my online statement for a while. Yes, it shows a sense of corporate responsibility to make sure I keep an eye on my finances but it also makes sense from a business perspective. If I run into trouble financially, having a credit supplier that has an eye out for me means their card won’t go near the shredder.
This stuff isn’t rocket science, so why aren’t more brands doing it? For some older organisations, pulling together all of their various data can be a painful process, while some companies feel they need to have the perfect data set before getting the ball rolling (they don’t – just take some data offline and play with it). There is a (slightly controversial) theory that some marketers think they know best and are afraid that the data will tell them otherwise or even take their jobs away.
But really, it’s just about data making brands even better – by looking at some of the real influences on customer loyalty and tapping into the data available to shift the loyalty dial in their favour.

First published on Zone's site

ePrivacy Directive: combining modern marketing and privacy

I was invited to attend a debate hosted by FEDMA on the future of ePrivacy and held at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 8th.

The event, ePrivacy Directive: combining modern marketing and privacy was hosted by Member of the European Parliament, Axel Voss.

Claire Bury, Deputy Director General of DG CNECT, at the European Commission set up the session by outlining the EU’s intention to align the ePrivacy directive with the recently adopted GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulation). ( Learn more about GDPR on the DMA’s website )

For those of you not in the know..this is Directive is more commonly known as the Cookie Directive.

In the first panel, ePrivacy: the right balance between business & buyers, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Deputy European Data Protection Supervisor and Harald Lemke, Senior Vice President, Special Representative for e-government and e-justice at Deutsche Post DHL shared their views on what should be the focus of the ePrivacy Regulation proposal. Although everyone agreed that yes, the  confidentiality aspects of the ePrivacy Directive should be respected there was a disagreement on its impact on the growing digital and data economy in Europe. Mr Lemke, obviously representing the commercial world’s interests warned against implementing the Directive without first studying its impact on this economy. Bizarely Mr. Wiewiórowski claimed he had not seen any studies that flagged any impact on the industry (I’m not aware of any that having been commissioned)

Mr. Wiewiórowski also stressed his optimism that the Directive could be introduced in time to mirror the introduction of GDPR in May 2018. This not created a wave of sceptical smiles through the audience but also prompted Mr Lemke to flag that his legal team were so busy with GDPR that he doubted that they could then also cope with ePrivacy

Some mention was made of research carried out by the Norwegian national data protection authority, which found that consumers prefer random versus targeted advertising when given the choice. Although I’m not sure how much weight this should carry considering the maturity of the data and direct marketing in Norway.

Diana Jannsen from the Dutch DMA, presented some highlights from their recent study What consumers think about data. Interestingly one highlight is that 75% of consumers are willing to share data, but 89% of them state that business currently benefits most. The study is available to download in English here

In the second panel ,Judicael Phan, Senior Counsel at Criteo presented the different technical tools that already exist on the market to provide users with ways to express their preferences and in fact made a very strong case for how being much more transparent about the use of data can provide a business advantage

What’s the difference between a Directive and a Regulation? A regulation means that each of the member states in the EU must adhere to the exact same laws and ways of implementing them. Whereas each country in the EU can implement whatever version of a directive works best for their individual markets – usually a reflection of the maturity of that market

The annoying banner pop-ups that appear on any website we visit, asking for consent to collect cookies? That was the product of the last (and existing) EU cookie directive update. The new Directive actually drops these banners – as they are annoying – but actually then essentially insists that anyone who wants to drop cookies onto a device will need to go through more hoops to collect permission. More banners anyone?

And it’s not just websites – messaging apps also get roped into the new legislation! This Guardian article gives you a flavour

As mentioned above, the EU aim to get this place alongside GDPR in May 2018

The Co-op. How to raise my expectations as a customer, and then disappoint me

I remember a few years ago talking to my client at ASDA about the content they might think of adding to their Christmas run in emails. Never mind the turkey or fizz offers, we'd looked at some Hitwise data that showed us that one of the more common search terms around this time of year was 'Supermarket opening hours'

So it made sense to add that information into their customers weekly email halfway through December to help customers - as well as stopping them seeing the opening hours of competitor stores

I was very happy , therefore. to see this subject line appear in my inbox today

Perfect! But this unfortunately was the highlight of experience

Upon opening the email ( tick for the email marketer who is KPI'd on opens) this is what I saw above the fold

Damn! A fizz offer. Still my scrolling persistence paid off..sort of

Use the Store Finder ? But I shop there 3 or 4 times every week. I know where it is .So, you know where I live and where I shop, but decide to take to the website to check out the details I thought you'd sent me. OK, so lets assume that I do really need to know. Click! ( ( tick number 2 for that email marketer who probably has clicks as another KPI)

You're not going to believe this


Please! Just tell me! You know where I shop!!

In for a penny, I use the 'Use your location' option and get given this list of stores..

Can you guess which of those is my local Co-op?

You've guessed it..Number 5. Which in reality is almost close enough to my house that I can read the sign on the door that says ' Store Opening Hours'

It's always disappointing when the highlight of any eCRM/digital/customer experience is..the subject line!

ps..Probably no ticks for whoever gets marked on customer experience

The next time you hear that we have less attention span than goldfish..

Don't give the presenter any more of your attention

So I'm at a sales enablement day for a major martech platform and looking forward to the presentation from one of their senior digital strategists, when the goldfish appears on screen

And then the argument is made that in this digital, multi-channel ,multi-media world, we now have less of an attention span than a goldfish. It's now less than 9 seconds, apparently.

But have you ever wondered how we know this and where this fascinating statistic came from?

Lets deal with the latter first

It seems that this comes from a Microsoft Consumer Insights white paper , but the actual goldfish comparison comes from a source called Statistic Brain .

They in turn reference a 2008 paper from Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer: “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use,” in the ACM Transactions on the Web, vol. 2, no. 1 (February 2008) that doesn’t actually test attention spans, but instead conducts a “web usage study with twenty-five participants” that examines online browsing behavior. It essentially looks at stay times on particular web pages. 

If we assume that attention span might be defined as the amount of concentrated time on a task without being distracted this study does not look at that. In fact the study doesn't really relate to the often cited 5 levels of attention humans have

- Focused Attention
- Sustained Attention
- Selective Attention
- Alternating Attention
- Divided Attention

And what about this amazing reference to the attention span of a goldfish? To be honest I spent 20 minutes looking for online articles about this without success ( wow I did more than 9 seconds!)

Also, if the digital age is impacting on our attention span, how is it that my nephew can spend over 2 hours focused on playing Call of Duty?



To really feel your customers' pain, you have to stand right by their side

I’m going to make a bet with you. At some point last summer the sun properly came out (no, really), and the mercury started to rise. When it did, sales of ice cream started to rise. As it got hotter, they continued to rise… until, at about 25.3C, when they suddenly plateaud, before falling steadily as the temperature continued its hypothetical march towards the traditional “London hotter than place X!” headlines.

Why am I so sure? Big data tells me so.

Now, as Zone’s head of CRM, you might expect me to tell you that – as big data can tell you everything. However, I’m happy to admit that it can’t tell me why ice cream sales plateau at 25.3C, because it doesn’t know. You actually have to speak to people to understand the real-world dilemma that prompts this behaviour (apparently, this is the temperature at which concerns over melting outweigh a craving for refreshment).

Big data is incredible: it can help us map out customer journeys in a granular way, particularly when thinking about online experiences. But often the problem the consumer is trying to solve occurs offline, leaving a disconnect between the pain point and the big data. To bridge that disconnect, you have to talk to the customer – and that’s when you might find an opportunity.

Take washing powder. Retail sales data tells me that washing powder is bought on specific days early in the week (possibly after a weekend of multiple washes), or simply once a month when consumers do their big non food-related shops.

OK, fine – but now personalise it. If you’re like me, you realise that you have run out while standing at the washing machine (the dilemma). Standard operating procedure in the Cuzziol household is to jot it down on the shopping list ready for the next Waitrose order… and thus contribute to that standard big data analytic.

But in that pain point, there was an opportunity to bypass the shopping list. An obvious e-commerce solution might come in the form of a simple one-step order interaction with my mobile. But I don’t keep my mobile in my pocket when I’m at home. What I need is an ever-present, dedicated digital solution present at the pain point – such as Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The identification of these dilemmas – and their solutions – happens when we get closer to the customer than big data might allow. Essentially a kind of ethnography, it’s about gaining insight just by being with consumers, in their own environment, as they perform tasks. Focus groups and surveys can ask these questions, but don’t happen where the real action takes place – and are unlikely to discover that I actually don’t have my smartphone with me next to the washing machine.

We can use all the web analytics data to describe the journey a consumer takes when trying to make a purchase on an e-commerce platform, but it’s only by sitting with them and recording their struggles with the credit card section of a checkout that we get a richer understanding of what’s going on.

That’s why we place such a premium on user research, observing them on their digital journey to observe where the speed bumps are, and working on ways to smooth them out… even to the extent of mapping people’s facial expressions to the movements of a mouse on a test screen. A grimace, for example, can be an incredibly valuable data point.

Yes, big data can get us closer to customers, but we only get really close to them when we are literally close to them… and can share the pain point.

First published via the DMA

Gamification is now the point when it comes to customer loyalty

The shop-ocalypse has arrived, and as the twin horsemen of Black Friday and Cyber Monday looming on the horizon, supermarket security guards and server-maintenance technicians alike were crossing themselves in fear.

And while retailers -  both of the bricks and mortar and e-commerce variety – are hopefully enjoying the benefits of the annual pre-Christmas shot in the arm (I say most as, of course, we know that Asda are giving this year a miss), a question that often gets forgotten by their marketers is: ‘What do we do with all these new customers?’. Wearing my CRM hat, all too often I see too little attempt to look beyond the sort of ‘stack ‘em high, sell ‘em low’ mentality that will prevail this weekend in terms of follow-up responses to first-time interactors. 

It’ll certainly be interesting to see if the increased embracing of a gamification approach to CRM – i.e the application of elements traditionally associated with gaming  ­– has an effect, and whether the marketing departments of any major retailers adopt that kind of approach specifically to post-Black Friday purchasers.

Even the most basic CRM model knows three things about customers post-purchase: who they are, what they bought and when they bought it. And this week the ‘when’ is crucial, because as it’s Black Friday marketers know they like a deal. That’s the kind of genuine, actionable intelligence that retailers need to exploit as they attempt to drive more value than occasional purchases of heavily discounted goods. It’s here where the gamification aspect of a sophisticated CRM approach kicks in.

Whereas the old temptation for marketers was to see these customers merely as prime fodder for end-of-line discounting sales and the like, a smart CRM approach will have identified the desired behaviours, and seek to encourage and reward them on an ongoing basis – as well as ensuring there is more than one route to success (and reward) for the customer.

By delivering genuinely meaningful rewards (such as free priority delivery or early access to new products) and increasing their scale (in line with greater, yet still attainable challenges), gamification can create an ongoing relationship that goes beyond the occasional interaction generated by specified discounting or the now increasingly dated accumulation of points approach.

Look at what Marks & Spencer has done with the recent launch of its Sparks loyalty scheme, which now has gamification at the heart of its structure. The retailer has identified frequency of spend, amount spent, advocacy (hopefully) via reviews and promotion of CSR credentials – via ‘Shwopping’ – as the behaviours it wants to influence.

Points in the form of ‘Sparks’ are given based on these behaviours and, by reaching key thresholds, the customer is rewarded with access to special events and priority notifications of sales etc. The scheme goes further by promising to tailor rewards based on a member’s interests.

It’s a similar story with ASOS, but because of the very nature of the brand’s audience the social aspect of ASOS rewards will do the bulk of the lifting to encourage engagement with the brand. Currently when users post an image of themselves on social channels using certain hashtags the content is used on the ASOS website.

Moving forward, those signed up to the loyalty scheme will be awarded points for posting on social channels and interacting with content thus recognising, promoting and rewarding an natural existing behaviour. 

In this age of big data, there’s no excuse not to use this kind of approach: one that both understands a customer’s existing behaviour and attempts to alter it through ongoing interaction. It’s certainly a far better way of winning a customer’s loyalty than straight discounting… after-all, a digitally empowered customer is a notoriously fickle one. 

Post first published in Marketing

Do we ask too much of our analysts?

Have you ever hailed a cab driver who is new to the city and asked him to take you somewhere that you know kind of exists but aren’t too sure where it is, but you need to be there in 30 minutes ?
Of you course you haven’t. But that is exactly what we are asking of our analysts

Whether or not the analyst is embedded in the client group, marketing function this is what we end up doing.
‘Hi Jeff, we ran this email campaign last month. If we get someone to extract some data for you would you mind pulling together some insights for us so we can present to the client the day after tomorrow?’
Sound familiar? Of course it does. We do it all the time. We have analysts. They are smart guys. They know about email metrics.

What’s the problem? Let me explain.

Our analysts help us move along the journey from Data, to Information to Knowledge, Understanding, and finally Wisdom

Ervick, Michael (2012) DIKW Perspective

They will often be tasked with moving numbers from its rawest form into some sort of organised collection say within Excel. Converting Data into Information. At this point we can do some Descriptive Analytics where we can talk about who did what, where and when. And to be honest as one off pieces of work, this is pretty easy for anyone to do.

It’s the next stage that begins to take some time, effort and to be honest a little bit of experience.
Before we can convert this information into Knowledge and Understanding (How and why things happened), the analyst needs to apply some experience and a theoretical framework to deliver. Experience because he knows that the manipulation, summing, averaging of certain pieces of data can give us some further knowledge. But it’s only by applying some framework to the thinking that he can help us really understand. This framework could be as simple as say the one that lies behind an A/B Test within that email campaign or slightly more complicated in the way that the campaign was delivered to multiple segments with varying copy and image permutations. 

And again, a smart analyst will make a pretty good stab at this but we would probably get the most out of him by involving them at the creation of the campaign and getting them to fill the measurement and evaluation piece of the brief. Not only does this then shortcut the time to delivering the Knowledge and Understanding (Insight) but will probably have resulted in a better measurement and evaluation framework to start with. 

When discussing the Business, Programme and Campaign KPIs it’s probably a good idea to have your analyst sit with you to make sure that the things you want to measure are actually the ones you should be measuring and in fact, that your tech allows you to. Even by sharing upfront what decisions you are hoping to make as a result of this activity will draw out any limitations on the original tracking/measurement requirements and indeed what improvements can be made to the Analysis Brief. 

‘Analysis Brief?’ I hear you ask. Of course. We have no issues providing a creative or editorial brief but seem to forget that to establish the effectiveness of the ensuing creative or copy, we need to make sure that their impact is analysed thoroughly . Without the Analysis Brief, we will only get delivered what the analyst thinks we wants, not what we all want.

Is it no surprise then that when you come to the real value add of insight generation, the gift of Wisdom in doing the right things going forward, we miss out and just end up in the first place the cab driver thinks looks interesting. 


Marks and Spencer’s Loyalty Sparks into Action

Well, it’s finally here. The long awaited Marks and Spencer loyalty scheme, Sparks, has arrived. It officially launches today, October 22nd, although it’s been visible in stores with kiosks signing up customers and on my doormat last weekend with a personal invitation.

Of course M&S has already been rewarding customers who have an M&S debit or credit card. That scheme offers a point for every pound spent in a similar way to reward cards operated by Tesco or Sainsbury’s. And in fact as a Marks and Spencer Premium Member I gain some benefits from my monthly subscription in terms of coffee vouchers, discounts etc.

Sparks has apparently been trialed for a few months now and has moved the retailer away from the rather blunt rewarding customers for spending more, to a scheme that really now tries to encourage and reward key behaviours.

As can be seen from the table, the retailer has identified frequency of spend, amount spent, advocacy (hopefully) via reviews and promoting its CSR credentials via 'Shwopping' as the behaviours it wants to influence. 
With a hint of ‘gamification’ in its structure, points in the form of ‘Sparks’ are given based on these behaviours and by reaching key thresholds, the customer is rewarded with access to special events and priority notifications of sales etc. The scheme goes further by promising to tailor rewards based on a member’s interests. 

David Walmsley, director of M&, says the Sparks registration will ensure that right from the very first reward the service is only offering rewards “truly aligned” with a consumer’s interests.

“We’ve tried to tap into the gamification trend as, for example, none of the Sparks points have monetary value,” he explains. “It allows M&S customers to see what’s around the corner – so what they will be able to eventually afford via their sparks total – and make gradual micro progressions.”

When registering, members give details of their hobbies and interests – such as fashion, sport and cooking – which determine the  offers or discounts they receive, with for example 10% off fresh flowers or a bottle of Prosecco to go with a meal deal. For the most active, 14,000 points will open up events like fashion shows and masterclasses, while 17,000 will enter card holders into draws that offer prizes such as a trip to a South African vineyard. At this point actually the retailer makes use of the talent it has available. Of particular interest to me is the fashion consultation with David Gandy

The scheme to a certain extent flies in the opposite direction of other loyalty schemes which have tended to move towards a much more simple approach. Morrisons is revamping Match & More, Tesco offering cashback at the till with its brand matching scheme as opposed to the voucher scheme offered by Sainsburys.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of marketing at M&S, said the move represented an opportunity for store managers to reconnect with their local shoppers.
“Customers tell us they want to ‘be part of something special’ and that’s exactly why Sparks is a club,” he said. “As a member, you are more than a customer and you’ll get the most from M&S – with tailor-made offers, priority access and invites to exclusive events. It’s a two-way relationship: members tell us what they enjoy, select their own tailored offers and are rewarded for sharing their views.”

The scheme is probably closer to the ones offered by John Lewis and Waitrose where benefits are less focussed on discounts but revolve around free coffee and cake (something my wife is particularly keen on and every time she samples some of the cake in our local John Lewis she seems to come back with a boot full of new purchases). The similarity to the current John Lewis scheme also stretches to the fact that Sparks is housed within the Marks and Spencer App and so forgetting your card at home doesn’t mean you lose out on offers or recognition. (I’m particularly of fond of shaking my smartphone to make my John Lewis card appear ready to be scanned.

The scheme’s focus on rewarding key customer behaviours beyond just spending is of real interest for me at the moment because of the opportunities we’ve been discussing with clients around similar themes where we can encourage customers to take certain actions that could enhance their experience but also contribute to the organisation’s commercial objectives. For example, recognizing and rewarding customers for giving us their content and communications preferences so that they receive tailored content, that drives greater engagement and usage – something we know reduces customer attrition.
Or rewarding App download and log in because we know that customers who have the app are likely to engage with us during those Google Micro Moments or even simply getting the customer to activate their service or product.

A link is also made with customers other relationships with the retailer. Premium members apparently automatically get their earned Sparks doubled.

Sparks also invites members to nominate a charity to which M&S will donate 1p every time the card is used. 

 And I even got to select my first reward!

The gamification element continues as further reward options are unlocked as you gain more Sparks


But rewarding me with 25 sparks for some information to tailor my rewards is the bit I liked the most

Will delve more onto my sparks experience over the next few days as a strive to get my audience with Mr David Gandy

Leeds United 1 Burnley 1

As the big brands make the most of the kick off of the Barclays Premier League we often forget about how fans of shall we shall teams who aren't famous anymore ( a popular chant at Elland Road these days) might see marketing comms from brands

Here's my 24 hours build up to the game


The main channel I noticed football related messages in was email. Pizza Express got the ball rolling( pardon the pun), with the opportunity to get Pizza as a take-away

Interesting as it wasn't really the main message in their regular offer email and with the majority of games being televised this weekend being midday or early afternoon kick offs, I'm wondering if a stronger message targeted at males when the midweek games get underway this week might have been a better option or in fact a stronger reference to some of the evening programmes such as Match of the Day or Channel 5's new Football League show on Saturday evening

Next up, BetFair ( ok so I like the odd flutter). Obviously a big weekend for the betting sites in particular with bets no longer being taken for the Great British Bake Off 

Betfair tried to convince me with one of their Get a Free Bet propositions


Then the postman came a calling with my Leeds Membership Card. I'm a big fan of personalisation on the outer


As a BT Sport customer I then noticed that Gumtree were getting in on the act

Hannah Wilson, Gumtree’s head of marketing, said on a Marketing Week piece : “One of the key things for us is improving the awareness and consideration of our motors category. We have 95% brand awareness but our motors category is relatively new. So far this year we’ve had a bias towards targeting women and we wanted to find a property that was almost exclusively male''


Just before heading off for the lunchtime kick off, SkyBet got into my inbox

But I have to admit the piece that made me smile was this piece of old fashioned OOH on my walk in between the railway station and the ground with Sky Sports using the image of a famous Leeds goal ( Tony Yeboah to be precise) to promote its heritage with the Premier League - Yes Leeds once played in that elite division

ps..I may have received a Puma email as well but it was promoting the new Arsenal kit so was immediately deleted!

Find it, Pin it, Buy It

First of all, apologies for probably ''borrowing'' that headline from one hundred other posts about Pinterest's new 'Buy It' button

Back in June, Pinterest announced it's intention to give brands the opportunity to add a 'Buy It ' button to the their boards

With a recent study by MillwardBrown Digital that surveyed over 2,000 Pinterest users finding that 93% of these Pinners that were active in the last 6 months saying that they use Pinterest to plan purchases, the move makes complete sense.

The Buy It button effectively helps consumers from 'Window Shopping' to actual shopping.

They have made it look smooth

This is obviously a great move for retailers as we know them, but in my mind has opportunities well beyond the Nordstroms, Next and ASOS's of this world. 

Other brands that can use 'Content' as a means of attracting new customers are bound to try it. Imagine The Times or Telegraph newspapers offering a subscription on the back of this, or BT promoting its TV and Sports packages!

Of course, this has technically already been done in the real world with QR Codes

Window shopping in Amsterdam

From marketing content to content marketing

Content providers such as Netflix and  Sky, amongst others, spend a considerable amount of money using traditional means to launch new channels or TV series.

Reviewing some of these recently,  I came across a number of examples that I enjoyed, were innovative and I felt were worth sharing.


I’ve shared this with  clients a number of times and is a favourite of Matt Simpson, International Business Director at Zone but formerly their Head of Content.

It’s a great example of how creating an innovative piece can become viral and in fact can outstrip the traditional marketing approaches (to date the spoof has had 63m views in comparison to the official trailers 4m ). As Matt put it..moving from marketing content to content marketing

The Simpsons Movie

Re-branding a dozen 7-Elevens in the US into Kwik-E Marts complete with Buzz Cola , KrustyQs and signage relevant to the series, this take over was only seen physically by a few thousand people but generated masses of PR. In fact PR Week called it a case of Reverse Product Placement.

  Reverse product placement converting 7-Elevens into Kwik-E-Marts

Reverse product placement converting 7-Elevens into Kwik-E-Marts


Not surprisingly it also had a positive impact on the 7-Elevens in question whose footfall and sales doubled!


A TED Talk in the future about the future. A nice 3 minute piece by the film’s Character, Sir Peter Weyland, CEO of Weyland Industries on key themes from the movie


To launch TV channel TNT in Belgium they placed a big red push button on an average Flemish square of an average Flemish town. A sign with the text "Push to add drama" invited people to use the button. And I always thought Belgium was a little dull.  Quite an action packed day

The Ring Two

Probably not as good a movie as The Ring but their site allowed people to enter a ‘friends’ telephone number and email address. The email was used for them to receive link to the trailer but during the trailer a call was made to the mobile number. When they answered they heard the words ‘7 days’ being whispered


Manifested itself as a game with its own website and Facebook pages that offered fans the opportunity to essentially create their own labyrinth and win exclusive prizes.   Mind Crime.

Do as I do, not as I say

Or how data based on behaviour delivers better customer experience than data based on what customers tell you

Versions of this have appeared via Zone's weekly Digital Distractions email and the The Wall blog

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’’ Henry Ford (allegedly)

History is littered with examples of how actually talking to customers about what they want has resulted in shall we say less than productive outcomes for organisations. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink cites numerous and entertaining examples of how consumer research lets us down.

This boils down to many factors and in fact doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to customers, but try to understand the context in which they are making those decisions or providing us with that information. I wonder how many restaurants collect information from customers signing up for discounts who tell them that Aberdeen, Aberaeron, Abingdon or Acton is there favourite restaurant; how many retailers see people who register for an account who have their birthday on January 1st; or market research companies have questionnaires completed by individuals who claim their annual income is one range higher than it actually is.

You could argue that all data is made equal, but some more equal than others.

In general I have a rule of thumb that Demographic data is less reliable than Profile data is less reliable than Behavioural data is less reliable than Transactional data.

Demographic data – Does my postcode really flag me as being similar to my neighbour

Profile Data – Even if accurate when I gave it to you, that was 12 months ago

Behavioural Data – Yes, I told you I was interested in Politics but the funny pages online are so damn appealing. Anecdotally I’ve heard that Film Four audiences in research groups told them they should be running French art house films and it turns out everyone just tuned into Dumb and Dumber 2

Transactional Data – Ok, so now I’ve put my money where my mouse is

But of course context is important and that can often be the most important factor that needs to be considered. Amazon were great at suggesting products similar to the cake boxes we recently bought for our daughters christening. But to be then bombarded with emails and given recommendations all about cake boxes and related products doesn’t really work when I’d rather be getting recommendations based on the constant stream of comedy DVDs and CDs I’ve bought over the last few years and watch on Amazon Prime.

It’s confusing isn’t it. And that’s before we start talking about how customer behaviour might give us a clue to future spend. I hear that Homebase can predict that a major home project is on the cards based on your purchase of a random packet of bird seeds when in one of their stores.

All of this data can be useful, but perhaps it’s the changes in a customers behaviour or transactions that matter the most. I may be constantly engaged with your content and with your products but what does it mean when I start to show a decline in watching your TV programmes or eating your pizzas?. Is that an indication of future churn?

Conversely what happens over a period of time if I become even more engaged with your content? Is that the real time to deliver a member get member offer rather than just running it to everyone who currently has an engagement score of 8. It’s the rapid movement from a score of 5 to 8 that might offer more insight

Stringing together data and the customer journey both off and online can be a powerful tool but a journey that can be quite heroic . Don’t believe me? Check out this ad by software company Thunderhead