transaction

25th September 2017

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

While online retail services are commonplace and very much taken for granted these days, I remember a time when this was certainly not the case. Christmas 2002 – what feels like a bygone era now – was the first time I used Amazon to buy a few gifts for friends and family. Foremost in my memory being a spectacular Stanley Kubrick DVD box set intended for a friend of mine. Although I ordered in plenty of time, no box set ever materialised and I was obliged to venture out and purchase another to avoid being red-faced on Christmas morn. I duly complained and another set was dispatched without argument. It still has pride of place on my DVD shelf to this day.

I was gobsmacked at the time. No aspersions were cast on my honesty, nor whether the package had actually arrived – no argument at all in fact. Just a replacement product dispatched in a timely fashion. I had to admit that I was more than a little impressed after such a poor first impression. A new standard of customer service had been set in my eyes.

A mere 15 years later and this level of service has become the norm, and most can scarcely remember a time when it wasn’t. It has become clear that this provision of quality service has now become functional and can no longer be thought of as a differentiator. The question of what makes us loyal when it comes to our engagement with brands, spanning a range of sectors, is one without a simple answer.

However, as is indicated in our Retail Trend Report for 2017, one particularly successful method for promoting trust and loyalty appears to be through offering reward schemes and cashback to consumers. There is clear evidence in our research that brands with highly established reward schemes, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have greater customer trust than those with no or only recently introduced reward systems.

Nevertheless, this alone is not enough, brands must strive to be more transparent and be seen to both preach and practice strong values for this loyalty and trust to be truly sustainable.

If we compare our most recent research to our findings from our 2013 Retail Report, we can see that loyalty has undoubtedly increased in those four years. However, while retailers can take encouragement from this there is still plenty of room to improve. Now is certainly not the time to ease up on the pedal. Essentially though, a higher proportion of brands seem to be raising the bar and increasing the pressure for others to follow suit and provide consumers with improved emotional and more rewarding relationships.

One cannot help but be intrigued at how the introduction of new technology may provide brands with a means to enhance their emotional connection with consumers in what is increasingly perceived to be a non-personal world. More advanced technology such as virtual reality seems to be gaining popularity at a steady rate, especially with younger customers. This could certainly present an exciting opportunity for brands to add an unprecedented level of engagement to their customer relationships in the years to come.

Want to know more about how to effectively engage with your customers? Contact us today 

pen

12th May 2017

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

That most contentious of acronyms – GDPR – draws ever closer, and as each second ticks by the clamouring voice of the media continues to cause a frenzy around the repercussions of this new regulation for the marketing industry. As the finer details of GDPR’s implementation are not yet fully known it has left a lot of people wondering how it will affect brand’s ability to communicate and ultimately understand their customers.

The crucial aspect that has many marketers running for the hills are the changes being instigated concerning ‘consent’; essentially the permission given by an individual to allow the processing and use of their personal data. For starters, you can kiss goodbye to the pre-ticked box. Instead, businesses will be required to obtain unambiguous consent from consumers with active opt-in protocols, and must bare each tiny detail of how exactly they intend to use said data. Consent requests can no longer be sneakily hidden away in terms and conditions like a needle in a haystack or indeed be a precondition of signing up to a service. Separate consent must be obtained for EACH separate channel through which a brand wishes to communicate, as opposed to having a blanket opt-in.

All things considered, surely putting consumers at the heart of marketing and promoting more transparency and trust in the industry is a good thing? Nevertheless, these new stringent rules could ultimately mean that marketers find it difficult to target new customers and struggle to profile customer data. The key question is: as consumers become more and more sceptical about parting with their personal data, how can marketers win them over and ensure they are maintaining relationships with them once GDPR comes into full force in 2018?

The big, well-trusted brands such as Amazon, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer will be sleeping soundly in their beds in the knowledge that they should continue to have little difficulty with this conundrum. It is the less established, less trusted or less appealing companies that shall be biting furiously at their fingernails.

Companies that offer insurance or utilities will inevitably find themselves at more of an impasse when it comes to securing consent, as consumers perceive these services as a purchase made from necessity and not for enjoyment or pleasure. The reality is that while consumers are happy to provide their personal data to their favourite retailer with the promise of receiving personalised and rewarding customer service, industries such as insurance just don’t provide the same sex appeal.

Fear not! Marketers from all industries and sectors should refrain from DEFCON 1 just yet. Consider this to be a fantastic opportunity to get a head start and organise highly targeted marketing campaigns to source consent from consumers in the run up to GDPR.  In order to achieve this, customer databases would need to be profiled and different consumer segments identified. Each of these target audiences will already have different relationships with your brand, underpinned by their individual lifestyle factors, attitudes, purchasing behaviour and communication preferences. By segmenting audiences and analysing these different relationships, marketers can build a detailed picture of their customers and best understand how to persuade them of the benefits of providing their data in the most relevant fashion.

Truth be told, won’t this ultimately provide brands with a more valuable customer base and allow brands to hone their marketing approach? Evidently, some consumers will still refuse permission to their personal data, but on the bright side those that do would probably be averse to ongoing communications anyway. Why invest in consumers that are not willing to engage with your brand? Time and effort are far better spent on those that have actively requested contact. Furthermore, these consumers will appreciate the open, transparent foundation on which you have initiated this relationship and shall anticipate the same standard in future.

Of course, it goes without saying that it is vital for brands to continue to secure consumer data from May 2018, and undoubtedly (and unavoidably) there will be consumers that choose to opt-out of providing consent. However, this new focus on a transparent approach to data collection will, in due course, result in more reliable customer data and more profitable customer relationships. This new chapter of consumer consent should not be cause for concern; if tackled head on and in an effective manner, the results for marketers could be extremely lucrative and rewarding.

Talk to us today about how to effectively segment your customer data!

thinking

8th April 2017

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

One of the constantly frustrating things that we hear is that “suppressions don’t apply in digital marketing”.  It’s as if somehow that by going on-line the modern marketer doesn’t need to worry about all that old-fashioned stuff such as “is the customer still alive” and “are they where we expect them to be”?

This is so far from the truth that it is worrying.  Indeed, there is as much need to ensure we know who the end customer is today as has always been the case.  And knowing where that person lives, what the correct contact details are for them and how best to contact them are as important as ever.

This may not be for the same purposes as in the past; managing costs and making sure that what is sent out is likely to be delivered with the least inconvenience to the receiver.  Suppressions in the omni-channel world provide a different purpose.  It is worth starting with the obvious point that omni-channel does not simply mean on-line.  Indeed, the ultimate aim of an omni-channel strategy is to use all the channels at our disposal to ensure that we not only recognise the customer across all touch points but also use the optimal combination of media, both on-line and off-line to create a long term engaged relationship.

If the majority of the relationship that a brand has with a customer is on-line, or via email, then there is a clear need to keep the contact details of that person up to date – without constantly asking them to do so themselves.  Think how much more impressed a customer would be if the brand prompted them to confirm an address change when this is flagged through goneaway or change of address files?  And yet this rarely, if ever, happens.

Through a very simple application of a suppression file, a much enhanced customer experience could be provided.

One of the reasons for keeping contact details up to date is that they are another way to match customer records together.  In general, email address will be a consistent key.  However, customers will often forget they have registered already or register again at the same address to try and claim new customer benefits.  By using cleaned, and traced, customer address details, a consistent customer record can be created and duplicate customer records matched and flagged.

For many brands that have the majority of their relationship with the end customer on-line, there is a lot of faith that the person they are engaged with is actually who they say they are.  Simple checks against contact management files, including The Bereavement Register, can help provide likely early indication of fraud.  Conflict between the address an individual provides and who is actually living at the address can also be good fraud indicators.  And much cheaper than full ID validation and checking.

So while the use of suppressions on-line is not as essential as in the more traditional outbound direct marketing environment there are a number of applications that can be beneficial – and help provide a more consistent and better customer experience for the end consumer.

For market leading data cleansing – talk to us about GAS, GAS REaCTIVE and The Bereavement Register

machines

2nd February 2017

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

During the recent, and really rather excellent, DMA event on the Future of Customer Engagement there was a throw away remark made by one of the speakers that really stood out for me.  In amongst all the Dystopian nightmare futures; predictions of millions of job losses and the creation of new ones we can’t even imagine as yet; the replacement of call centres with chatbots and the running of our homes handed over to tiny lovable robots was the statement “one aspect of customer engagement we need to consider is that much of it will be between machine and machine”.

When we think about customer engagement, at least when I do, we tend to think about computers, or even Artificial Intelligence on the company side – creating triggers when someone drops onto a website or automating outbound comms, responding to live chat on-line or in a call centre.  However, there is also the automation, or computerisation, of the customer side of things.  With things like Siri, Cortana, Amazon’s Echo and Dot functionality and Google Now already common place there are times when the decision to engage with a website or brand may not be made by the end consumer but could well be made by a “machine”.  As such, who – or indeed what – is the customer in this instance?

From a data perspective, this makes how we gather, hold, manage and then present data and information in the future very interesting.  In the past a Single Customer View (SCV) was centred around a person, or maybe a household, based at a physical address.  Over time this evolved to take into account e-mail address where we would often know an individual by an email address, and start to gather a lot of data against that email address without knowing who the person was, or where they lived.  In many cases it might even be that we never actually find out what that person’s full name is but through e-mail we can build up a decent amount of knowledge and information about them and start to create a meaningful relationship.

In recent times that has evolved again.  From the first time an individual drops onto a website we now tend to capture the IP address and/or the device ID of the device being used.  If that doesn’t connect to one we already know we then create a new record in the SCV.  Over time this device connects hopefully to an email address as we get initial registration and then, if needed, to a name and address as a transaction takes place.  This does mean that we do already centre our SCV developments on machines.

To a certain extent it is about ensuring that we capture the most relevant data as early as possible and then connecting that data to a “person” as we learn more.  So in many ways we have the technology capability already in place to deal with building a database, or single customer view, that creates customer engagement strategies between two devices.  On one side are automated triggers and engagement streams already in place, on the other side devices that may or may not be operated by a human.

Back to the recent event.  During an inspiring presentation by Jeremy Waite from IBM, he introduced us to Jibo, the next generation of home help style AI.  Jibo responds to human instructions but also has enough intelligence to collate data and make decisions on its own behalf.  As an example, Jeremy, who has been testing it out, recently got told by Jibo that he was running late for a meeting and didn’t have time to walk so Jibo had ordered him an Uber.  While this is amusing and shows how AI is developing, it also raises quite an important question: Who are we marketing to here?  The person who owns the robot or the robot itself?  Does Jibo decide to use an Uber because the owner has trained it to select Uber as their taxi firm of choice or does Jibo select Uber because it recognises Uber from marketing messages received?  To a certain extent it doesn’t matter, as AI develops the robots will increasingly make decisions on our behalf, marketing will need to also develop to “sell” to machines.

While we might be set to market machine to machine at the moment, and be able to gather and host the data required to do so, I suspect where we currently do fall short is in our ability to distinguish between machine and person in terms of how we are trying to influence and why.  This will provide a real challenge for the future and one that might need to be solved quicker than we think.

Want to talk about the power of  insight ?  Contact us today

Dean Standing

30th January 2017

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dean Standing to the role of Client Services Director. Dean will be responsible for leading the client services team, ensuring the delivery of the very highest levels of service to REaD Group’s clients, while also expanding the company’s extensive portfolio.

Dean has been integral to REaD Group’s growth since joining as a graduate over 10 years ago and will now be key part of its future. His aptitude for understanding client challenges and building relationships has resulted in numerous accolades over his decade-long career at REaD Group. He was awarded employee of the year in 2009, shortly before being promoted to Bureau Sales Manager. He also won the Database Marketing Rising Star Award in 2011 whilst working as Head of Bureau Sales.

Dean joined REaD Group in 2006, taking up a graduate position in its meta-morphix division.  He progressed quickly, carefully nurturing high profile clients through the global crash and worked his way up through the company. He worked particularly closely with Macmillan Cancer Support and a number of supermarkets and was a key figure in implementing meta-morphix’s unique automated data processing software, INLINE.

Jon Cano-Lopez, CEO at REaD Group, said: “Dean is one of those rare people who has the ability to identify the challenges facing clients and quickly and efficiently get to the solution.  With over a decade’s experience under his belt, he really understands data and how it can deliver the best possible results for his clients.  Dean is a huge asset to the company and his experience and dedication will continue to serve us as he takes on his new role as Client Services Director.

“At REaD Group, we are committed to creating an environment that nurtures talent and supports career development and Dean’s progression is a perfect example of this. It’s been a pleasure to watch him rise through the ranks since joining at entry level over a decade ago.”

Dean Standing, Client Services Director at REaD Group, said: “Having worked at REaD Group for over a decade, I continue to be passionate about delivering the best possible results and service to our ever growing client base. The next few years are to going to be extremely challenging for brands and REaD Group is ideally positioned to help advertisers maximise the asset that lies dormant within their database. I can’t wait to get started.”

data

16th January 2017

By Jon Cano-Lopez, CEO at REaD Group

It’s fair to say that 2016 was another formative year for data. As the buzzword that was ‘Big Data’ has fast become yesterday’s term in the marketing lexicon, the industry has finally woken up to the array of challenges posed by the astonishing rate at which data volume is growing. The question around how to process, utilise and optimise this data has sparked intense discussion, debate and debacle over the past year.  And whilst these broad questions will continue to dominate data conversations in 2017, some key issues will undoubtedly emerge throughout the course of the year. Here, we take a look at the top four data themes set to play an important part in 2017.

Accuracy

It may stand to reason that the more data you have, the more accurate your insights will be. But believe it or not, the explosion in volumes of data has led to increasing challenges when it comes to utilising such data optimally. Huge volumes of seemingly unrelated data is a fantastic opportunity for the marketeer, however it can be fraught with potential obstacles and traps if not used properly.  New buzzwords such as Rich Data and Fast Data have emerged which in simplistic terms means the nuggets in the data are accessible quickly.  We are also in danger of forgetting the basics. Data ‘ages’ or ‘decays’ (yes more buzzwords) at an alarming rate – in basic terms that means it becomes out of date.  People change, they move house, they change life stage, they change preferences and needs and they unfortunately die.  Without an up to date and accurate view, companies waste huge resources by targeting the wrong people, with the wrong messages, through the wrong channels. Data Hygiene, the process by which businesses can clean their customer databases through sophisticated algorithms and against much more robust data sets, will become even more important in 2017 as businesses seek to derive quality from quantity.

Politics

The outcome of the EU Referendum was not the only political moment to send shockwaves through the data industry in 2016. After finding itself in the eye of a tabloid storm towards the end of 2015, the charity sector has faced a year of dressing down by UK Government over its questionable use of consumer data. This has ultimately culminated in the development of a new Fundraising Preference Service, which will drastically limit the opportunities that charities have to reach out to prospects and raise funds. The government’s decision to weigh in on data use in the charity sector has set a dangerous precedent and calls into question which sector may be at the mercy of state intervention next. We’re likely to see the data industry engaging much more with the political sphere in 2017 in order to avoid a repeat scenario.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the widely-anticipated piece of European legislation scheduled for implementation in May 2018, and it will be a term on everyone’s lips in 2017. The new legislation is set to replace outdated data protection laws and every company in possession of EU citizen data will have to abide by the new rules. Britain’s decision to leave the EU has led to a sense of complacency in Britain’s approach to the GDPR. Many UK companies mistakenly believe Brexit will excuse them from this legislation. This is not the case and as a result preparation must start now. 2017 will be the year businesses will need to get their ducks in a row when it comes to data protection or risk fines of up to four per cent of annual global turnover.

Lead generation

Cold contact has long had its day. Even in the digital realm, consumers are growing increasingly fatigued by unsolicited marketing messages. Every marketer knows that a much more effective strategy is to ‘really’ target individuals properly.  It’s an old phrase but ‘right person, right message, right time’ is still as true as ever.  Just add ‘right channel’.   Hopefully 2017 will be a year where businesses invest intelligently in collecting the right data through whatever applicable channel.  Marketing to consumers that have already expressed an interest in your company’s product or service in some way, shape or form will always be more successful.  As such, 2017 will be the year in which more businesses seek to generate data through a hands-up approach to data collection. This will ultimately provide more accurate and actionable insights.

Conclusion

It is clear that 2017 is set to be another exciting year in data. There will no doubt be more problems (sorry opportunities) as organisations contend with increasing volumes of data, impending regulations, and an unpredictable political landscape. But we can expect bigger and better things from the industry as we continue to enhance our capabilities, refine our practices and deliver greater results from data in 2017.

Find out more about our unique data or contact us today for a custom count.

grid

31st December 2016

REaD Group are delighted to announce that one of our in-house Insight team, Andrea Baroni, has been recognised as a SAS software award winner!

Graduating with a Distinction MSc in Management Science and Marketing Analytics from Lancaster University, Andrea was awarded the SAS Prize for achieving the best marks in the SAS Programming module and also for best use of SAS in a final project submission.

Having joined REaD Group’s Insight team in August 2016, Andrea is already utilising his award winning SAS skills to provide exceptional insight for our clients, including customer profiling and segmentation analyses.

Congratulations Andrea!

In a world of sophisticated and digital savvy consumers, using effective Insight to turn raw data into meaningful and profitable action is no longer a nice to have.  Using SAS, and other advanced analytical tools is driving our ability to provide powerful analytical support .

Talk to us today about our Insight services

gender

22nd November 2016

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

Not just sex but age, household income, number of kids, car driven, property type, digital engagement, supermarkets shopped at and loads of other variables.  As an analyst, or an ex-analyst who employs much cleverer people than I ever was, one of the joys of working at a data owner is how much data we have to play with.

I do firmly believe that there is no business problem that data can’t solve.  Quite often the challenge is getting the right data to be able to solve the problem.  This can lead to long lead times while research is carried out or additional data sourced.  For most of the analysis we do we combine the data that REaD Group hold on every individual in the UK with the data our clients hold on their customers to develop outcomes to help solve our client’s challenges.

One of the questions I am asked most often is what analysis I would do if I had free reign and the time and data to be able to carry out any project.  While there are lots of really good options, such propensity modelling, attrition analysis, lifetime value analysis, next best product or marketing mix modelling, my own personal choice would be a segmentation of the customer base.

Segmentation is sometimes sneered at a bit by analysts, and indeed by marketers.  What will you do with it?  What are the directly attributable outcomes?  What benefits will it bring?

For me though, the amount of work that has to be done to get a good segmentation delivers benefits in itself, never mind the outcomes of the project.  For example, as part of the initial work there are always profiles created; a need to understand who are active and lapsed customers and what the retention rates are; who is providing the most value and through what products; what channels customers are engaging through and what impact campaigns are having – that’s lots of projects rolled into one!

And that’s before you really get into the outcomes of the segmentation itself which can often help provide real insight into the customer base, in a way that even profiling can’t provide.  The multi-dimensional aspect of segmentation means that sub-groups are often created that just wouldn’t be found otherwise.  With a client I was working with recently we unearthed a group of well-off middle aged mums spending a lot of money which was a segment the client didn’t even know they had.

In addition, there are cultural elements to a good segmentation that you don’t always get from other insight projects.  Once the initial segmentation is completed, getting the personas built, the naming of the segments agreed and the strategies on how to manage the customer groups developed takes much more than a team of analyst in a dark room.

This creates a real opportunity to open up the data to a wider group of people across the company who can get involved and really get under the skin of the customer groups created.  In my experience, this additional knowledge can often help guide and develop the segments to such an extent that the data can both educate the client but also the other way around.  I have seen many customer groups broken into two, or combined together to create other segments based on inherent business knowledge that the data would never find.  This is often the most fun part of the project.

For many on-line, or fast growing businesses, there are just so many things going on, often around service and responding to client queries that actually getting to know who the customers are is a step too far.  There is a real irony here as frequently deep customer engagement is what made them successful to begin with but as they have added millions of new customers that is lost.  Segmentation can really help redress that balance.

Of course, it isn’t just new businesses.  Many years ago I worked at Bank of Scotland, when it was a really well run, well managed small local bank.  We were very lucky to have a great CRM database, a good insight team and a boss at the time who really bought into segmentation.  We spent a lot of time breaking the base down into small, manageable groups, getting to know them in detail then creating contact strategies to deliver relevant campaigns.  The work was justified by astounding response rates – up to 25% in some of the segments.  Even a postcard to just say thanks to an older, long-time customer group brought new products opened by over 10% of them.

Maybe this is where my love for segmentation started as it showed that there are actionable outputs and business transformation can take place with deep customer understanding and clever strategic implementation.

So while a propensity model might give you directly attributable income, and help decide who to target for a campaign, for me a segmentation provides so much more.  And now with the additional variables that can be added from the vast quantities of data that REaD Group holds, the joy of sex, age, income and the rest really does add an extra dimension to the segmentations we build for our clients.

Talk to us about how segmentation can help you to better understand your customers.

money exchange

31st October 2016

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

I recently attended an excellent conference hosted by The Insurance Network on the hot topic of customer engagement in the insurance sector. One of the interesting discussions at the roundtable focussed on purchasing data directly from the individual customer. The range of views in the room were intriguing, from “it would never happen” through to “I’d sell my data and for not very much”.

Before we explore this discussion in more detail, let’s just wind back a bit.  What was universally agreed at the event was that developing an engaging relationship in the insurance sector is a tough task, and maybe one of the hardest sectors to make work. Insurance companies suffer from a lack of opportunities to build a relationship in terms of transactions, and the moments of truth are very low.

Much focus is put onto the claims process and making it as easy and seamless as possible, which is great, but only really affects between 5 and 10 per cent of customers – and probably the ones that the insurance companies don’t really want to keep. For the other 90-95% of the customer base, moments of engagement are few and far between.

At the same time, the acquisition market has become so competitive that existing customers will almost always consider looking at an aggregator to see what other deals are available.

The consequence is that customer data has become pretty valuable.  Knowing the renewal dates for existing customers is really vital data for insurers.  Knowing who they live with, their income, their likelihood to buy online, how many cars they have, and their hobbies can all help decide who to invest in and also which products to develop and promote. As a result, there is a large amount of money spent with third party data providers to ensure that external data is added to the limited internal data to enhance knowledge of the individual customers.

This brings us on to purchasing data directly from the consumer. It’s an area that has been looked at by different organisations in the past.  Some small initiatives have been very successful, for example, incentivised gathering of opted in email addresses with prize draws and gathering renewal dates online with the offer of reduced premiums for multiple cars in a household. However, as far as I know, there has never been a concerted effort to create an ongoing data collection program, paid for with either hard cash or discounts to the consumer in the insurance sector. In many ways, loyalty cards in retail did exactly this. It wasn’t quite so explicit but clearly traded discounts for consumer information, which was used to build a picture of the customer and sell better to them.  So why not do the same in insurance?

I guess the first challenge is around cost; how much discount could actually be offered on a car or home policy in exchange for some up to date information?  £5?  £10?  Across a number of customers, this could become very expensive very quickly. Research has shown that we, as individuals, value our own data much higher than it could actually be sold for. However, as I was made aware at the event, some people would be happy to trade their data for much lower sums, as little as £1 or 50p even. Maybe some testing needs to be done to see what the value point is for different groups of customers.

Another point of discussion is around the validation of data sourced directly from the consumer. One benefit of buying data from a third party is that you can be assured that there has been a validation process through the comparison of multiple data sources with any spurious results ignored. How would a company gathering data directly know if a person supplying data actually provided the correct renewal date or that they did actually drive a Lamborghini?

So perhaps after all there is a reason why third party data suppliers exist. The collation, cleaning, validation and presentation of data isn’t straightforward and requires a robust, technical process. However, as the millennial generation become the consumer power base, they will definitely understand the need to trade data for services.  As such, the time is right to be looking for the best model to ensure that individual companies get the data they value, available and permissioned on as many customers as possible. Some of that will be through third parties but more should also be getting gathered directly.

Talk to REaD Group about data and insight .

customer engagement

30th September 2016

Are you in a relationship? No, not in that way, but with the products you love? Marketers talk a lot about relationship marketing and building engagement with their customers. The theory is that if the brand provides information and advice, even entertainment, beyond the product they are selling then the customer gets more involved (or engaged) and is then more open to being sold to.

And I get that. For me I definitely am engaged with the BBC Sport website. They mix their own factual stories with gossip, entertaining comment and video – both new and archive. I could easily spend a couple of hours looking around. Although this may not be the best example as they are not trying to sell me something but, to be honest, if they did I would definitely buy!

Similarly, I think I have an ‘engaged’ relationship with Amazon. That’s very different in the sense that I am looking to buy, or at least shortlist what I might buy. However, having one place for music, films and books with what’s hot, what’s new and what’s coming next I find fantastic. And the consequence is that I buy way more there than maybe I should.

The thing about relationships though is that, in general, we don’t have that many of them (hopefully). In general, we maybe have one or two deep relationships, a few more casual ones and some fleeting ones that we drop in on every now and again.

So, taking all of this into account, when it comes down to it, how easy is it for an Insurance Company to build customer engagement? No-one really wants to have a relationship with their insurance provider. In reality there are only a few touch points in a year and all of these are pretty painful – such as paying the premium or making a claim. Is it realistic to think that an insurance brand can build a relationship with a consumer and keep them engaged enough to buy when the time is right?

I think, first of all, it is important to be realistic. Of all the relationships that the consumer has with brands, I personally don’t think it is feasible for the main one to be with an insurance company. However, given that we have to buy insurance, being the Insurance ‘best friend’ isn’t a bad place to be. Like the mate you can rely on to go to the pub to watch the football – reliable and available.

It is also key to remember that service is a fundamental basis of a relationship. Bearing in mind the small number of touch points that an insurance company has with the individual, getting that right is vital. Make finding the price easy, be clear on what is included and what isn’t and most importantly, if and when a claim does happen be responsible, fair and easy to deal with. Relationships are all about feelings and when you have lost something, been in a prang and had a crisis, having someone who listens, understands and helps is a real bonus.

Also, and personally I find this really important in a relationship, being recognised is nice. Going back to our friends at Amazon, it is great that whenever I drop onto the website they already know who I am – and ask me to confirm this. I then have to log in to buy anything but that seems fair. Why don’t more companies do this? I think a lot of brands are worried that this seems ‘big brother’ but if you are clear that by using cookies or other tools we are going to cut the time it takes to deal with us, most people will agree to that – and those who won’t get the chance to say no.

With all the information that is publically available about us as individuals, it is also quite surprising that more companies don’t use this to enhance our experience with them – even in subtle ways such as the pictures used on websites or in communications.

Ultimately, how engaged we are with any brand will come down to how much we enjoy the experiences we have with that brand. A relationship is two-way, it can’t be forced from one side only – that is basically stalking. Clearly in insurance there are some fundamentals such as decent and fair pricing and a strong brand that will always be taken into account when making a choice.

However, if the brand makes it easy to meet them, makes it enjoyable when we are together and are sensitive and caring in a crisis then we are much more likely to go on that second date.