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Big data
The number of connected devices being shipped will hit 1.1 billion this year, double that by 2016. Thats a lot of consumer data. GDR met Simon McEvoy from CRM and marketing agency Tangent Snowball to hear how brands can make it work for them in a meaningful way

rands are gathering vast amounts of consumer data online, but what should they be doing with it?

We were recently approached by a big online retailer looking to gain meaningful and actionable insight from the data it had been gathering. This is really what everyone is after. It means getting the insight to the part of the business where it can make a difference. The client had been accumulating open, click and browsing data since it launched in 1998, so the first step was organising it all, otherwise the sheer volume can be overwhelming to comprehend, let alone action. It took our systems nine hours (and several crashes) just to process the data into something we could begin to work with. Once your data is processed and organised, you can start to refine it through search and look more closely at different subsets.

Once data is processed, how do you find the value in it?

While this client (like many others in fashion) had already been using relational data to identify buying patterns, it wanted to go much further. What it really wanted to know is: How much is an open (of an email) worth? Is it more valuable than viewing a web page? If a customer always opens emails and visits our site a few times a month but is a low spender, are there other ways we could drive value from the relationship? By aggregating all the data and scoring certain actions with attributed weighting, we were able to build a complex picture of their entire customer database. Grouping it into about 25 segments with shared behavioural characteristics, the client was able to start to use the insight to build new communications strategies for each one.
How has social media affected the type of data brands can access? Social media really augments customer data.

Brands are only just starting to recognise its full potential, and to create a system and infrastructure for it. If you like a brand on a social network, or even better connect with them through an app, that brand can monitor how youre interacting with it. But it can also gather information on your interactions with anyone else youre publicly engaging with through that network. By gathering this data from the various social networks you have presence on, the brand can build a fuller, richer profile of you than has been possible before. The brand can then offer a personalised experience way beyond targeted advertising or recommendations based on just your browsing history. For example, we recently worked with Hive, an online book retailer that connects customers with a network of independent booksellers. Once youve found the book you want on the site, you can pay for it online and have it delivered for free to a local independent bookshop. By selecting a favourite bookshop, you ensure a percentage of all your purchases goes towards supporting it. Hive wanted to engage with a wider audience online. By tapping into the online and social media activity of its customers, we identified that many of them had strong feelings about the effect big businesses are having on small retailers. So instead of just talking to them about the joys of shopping in

independent bookshops, we shifted the message so that we were responding to the impact of big businesses instead using the idea of negative motivators to engage with people by responding against something rather than for it. We also used Hives data to target the key influencers in this group, who responded really well to being involved in this way. Overall, we were able to gather a lot more support for the brand, tripling Hives engagement rate. We found that once we had engaged with this very vocal group, they became powerful ambassadors for the brand, amplifying conversations well beyond what our more traditional consumer base had been. They were also more likely to purchase and talk with pride about how they had taken an action against big corporations. Overall it positioned Hive perfectly amongst its slightly left-leaning, liberal, well educated, audience as a David in a world of Goliaths.
How do you know that the data youre gathering online and through social media is reliable? Every research

method has its flaws, and social media certainly isnt perfect, which is why the human insight element is so important. There definitely seems to be a move away from the traditional, survey-based methods, which can be such a blunt instrument when badly executed the wording can be so restrictive and theyre often crafted to get a certain type of response. What we have now, through social media and other digital tools, is infinite opportunities for consumers to interact with a brand and this can invite more natural and therefore more meaningful

responses. For example, creating an app for festival-goers which allows them to voice their own thoughts and commentary on what theyre seeing and listening to while theyre at the event. Its like taking the focus group to the consumer.
Are consumers really ok with the idea of brands gathering this much data on them? When you know so


much about your customers, you have to communicate and treat the relationship much more carefully otherwise you risk losing their trust. I heard a great quote at an event recently, about the unlikely heroes of today being computer programmers, and the unlikely heroes of tomorrow being statisticians. Many online brands such as Google, Facebook and Amazon will already have a head of data sitting on the board. I think its only a matter of time before that spreads to most other companies, too, and this will be one of the most important people in the room. Much like the technology industry 20 years ago, we will be looking to educational institutions to take the lead on what is possible here. The most exciting thinking in data and human behaviour is coming from institutions such as Cambridge University and MIT, in fields like personality mapping and behavioural economics. The corporate world hasnt quite worked out how to put a dollar figure on the value of this work yet, but when it does you can be sure the guys currently staffing statistics department in the top institutions are going to be in high demand. As will creative people who can understand data and turn insight into big, emotional, engaging ideas.
How does the growth in services allowing consumers to gather and analyse their own data fit in? Brands building

these platforms creates another way for consumers to interact with them. Nike FuelBand, for example, allows runners to track how active theyve been, and to use this information to make decisions on their own fitness. This data then all goes back to Nikes digital division where they analyse it to improve their products and augment their marketing programs. Another great example which was around first is the Fiat Ecodrive, which monitors your driving and gives you advice on how to drive more efficiently. As well as giving the consumer a way to collect, analyse and use this information which has obvious benefits for them, and would be a lot harder to do otherwise this data is uploaded to the web or an app, so its all shared with the brand, too. With this kind of set-up, the brand is offering a data trade, exchanging the information for something useful such as a better product, experience or service. Opening up this kind of conversation or interaction allows them to run the customer relationship more effectively, and it allows consumers to see the value of sharing their data.
That seems to be a very Millennial-friendly idea. It is. With Millennials, their first thought on encountering something new is How can I interact with it?. They want a two-way relationship,

The World of Big Data, an infographic created by illustrator Bennie Kirksey Wells for NYU Stern School of Business.

Issue 46_2012 GDR Creative Intelligence

Features Big data: continued


so if youre taking something from them (their data, for example), you have to give something, too. Were seeing the rise of the digital brand, where brand communication works both ways. Through social media, the brand is owned as much by the consumer as the people who run it.
Whats next for data? Once it takes off, cashless payment is going to play a key role. At the moment, many companies find it difficult to determine whether a customer buying in-store is the same one who shopped at another branch or online last week. But if were using our mobiles to shop in physical stores, all of a sudden we can join the dots and build a better profile and purchase history for each customer. However, with cashless payment, the big question is who owns the data? Is it the payment provider who facilitates the payment, the device operator that hosts the application, the retailer selling the product or the brand that made it? I can see real battles looming as brands and retailers realise that they are very likely to be cut out of the loop in this new purchasing process, with the really valuable customer data going back to payment providers such as Visa.

Simon McEvoy is head of planning at Tangent Snowball. With nearly a decades experience in digital marketing, his clients include Alfred Dunhill, Carling, Tag Heuer and Nails Inc.

Cashless payment will help build better customer profiles (above); Fiat Ecodrive encourages consumers to share data in exchange for advice on efficient driving (below).