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.
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 Data ‘ages’ or ‘decays’ (yes more buzzwords) at an alarming rate – in basic terms that means it becomes out of date.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
20th June 2016
Big Data is the phrase on so many decision makers’ lips at the moment. It’s a great term and has been influential in elevating the importance of data, especially around the boardroom table. But to a data expert it’s essentially meaningless.
Why? Because data has always been big. Data – in particular, customer transactional data – has always been a challenge for businesses to deal with. Back in 1992, we spent a massive (for us, at the time) £16,000 on four 1GB hard drives to hold as much information as we could for our clients. These days a portable 8GB drive on Google comes in at £2.99. Data is expansive; as technology evolves to store it, unless managed it will always fill the space available. Previously, we stored what was most relevant as the capacity wasn’t there to store everything and this filtering is still going on to a certain point. It’s not the mountain of data that’s important, it’s the spoonful of gold that we need to harness and act on quickly. There will always be more coming in than companies are capable of dealing with. Because just as the amount of data coming into a business gets larger, and our capacity to collect and analyse it increases, the new technologies and touchpoints to collect it also increase exponentially.
Big Data is big business; it has big implications. It is not, however, new, and it is leading businesses astray. Big Data is a big distraction from the real issue: Fast Data. The speed at which volumes of information come into a company now mean that the vast numbers of data scientists being hired at FTSE 500s around the world find themselves bogged down in the sheer onslaught, unable to find the really important facts in the torrent (the spoonful of gold). In all the fuss over Big Data, the opportunity from Fast Data is being ignored, and this is potentially ruinous. Fast Data is where the action is. Fast Data holds those incredibly valuable hair trigger moments where a company can pinpoint a customer about to leave, and stop them, making them a more loyal contact in the process. Fast Data is where people are browsing for cars online, it is dropped e-shopping baskets. It is the brief moment where decisions are influenced, and it lives only in the now.
So if a business is struggling to deal with its data already being Big, how can it be expected to deal with a 24/7 torrent of Fast Data too? The smart business keeps itself focused. It knows what its objectives are, and will look at the information coming in signalling the trigger points that will help to achieve these. This could be making sure they know when their customers move property so valued contacts are not lost, it could be understanding that a solid retention strategy hinges on spotting just when a customer is looking to defect and knowing what those information patterns look like. A smart business also knows when it may be time to look for help from someone outside its structure, independent from the infrastructure of siloed departments and data streams, that can pull the insightful whole together from many different, disparate parts. Fast Data cannot be slowed; it loses its power. It can however, be filtered and used. And businesses bewildered by Big Data can instead be fuelled and furthered by Fast Data.
10th June 2016
It is estimated that in the twelve months following an individual’s death, a whopping 110 items of marketing can be received in their name. With upwards of 580,000 people dying each year in the UK (based on ONS figures), this amounts to nearly 64 million pieces of unnecessary and damaging, direct mail landing on doormats and in inboxes annually.
Receiving this mail not only upsets the family and relatives of the deceased individual, but also increases the risk of brand damage for an organisation, and creates environmental harm and monetary waste.
To tackle this problem, REaD Group launched The Bereavement Register in 2000 – a continuously evolving marketing suppression list of deceased individuals in the UK. Since then, our team of dedicated TBR heroes work hard to ensure we the UK public is protected from this upsetting side to direct mail.
Since its origin, we have estimated that The Bereavement Register has prevented upwards of half-a-billion items of post being sent to the deceased!
“I understand first-hand the distress caused to bereaved families when direct mail is received after a person has died. I continued to receive mail address to my late wife, Sarah, months after her death. This was upsetting for me, but especially for our young children,” explains Mark Roy, Chairman. “I was in the perfect position to do something about it, and subsequently, TBR was born.”
The service is now used to screen over 70% of all direct mail sent in the UK, and is continuously growing.
TBR has a consumer website and phone number to call, as well as our FREEPOSR TBR Folders, which are distributed to UK Registrars, funeral directors, hospitals, hospices, police liaison officers, solicitors, charities and coroners.
To find out more, please visit www.thebereavementregister.org.uk.
2nd May 2016
The cars we drive are becoming more intelligent. In fact, the average family saloon has more computing power than Apollo 11, the ship that first took man to the moon! One major aspect of this intelligence is Telematics, the information your car gathers as it is driven.
Typically, Telematics is any integrated use of telecommunications and information, any data that is gathered and then transmitted for storage and use at a later date. In the automotive sector, Telematics is the more generic word used to describe the data that is generated by a vehicle and sent for analysis and management by the manufacturer, or other interested party. At present this data is primarily used for logging car performance for manufacturers but it is increasingly also being used to track drivers’ habits for insurance companies
In regular surveys, over 80% of people believe themselves to be good drivers. Sadly, most insurance companies don’t agree with this and many of us still feel that we are paying over the odds for the car we insure. With the EU Gender Directive implementation now complete, insurers are increasingly deploying technology within vehicles that records driving information in order to allow them to set premiums that reflect the driving style of motorists. Commonplace is the practice of installing tracking devices into vehicles to record information that should enable the insurer to diagnose the risk faced by that driver more accurately.
For example, higher speed (average or peak) might indicate greater risk; likewise greater distance covered relates to greater exposure. Other potential diagnostics include: time of day when the vehicle is being used; location; cornering at excessive speed; acceleration/deceleration and types of roads used.
The diagnostics from the Telematic black boxes can be gathered second by second for all journeys. This creates many advantages for insurers in tracking this data:
- Differential pricing
The EU Gender Directive may have created a way for female drivers to avoid large hikes in their car insurance premiums. Also, it could reduce the cost of young drivers’ insurance, allowing them to be rewarded for better driving habits.
- Driver benefits
No claims discounts can be worked out relative to mileage, rather than years, which is seen to be a more accurate exposure measure. Providing feedback to customers on their driving behaviour could encourage them to become better drivers, leading to safer roads.
Delays in reporting accidents to insurers would be reduced, and while more accurate reporting of accidents and possibly even the cause will make a big difference.
The cost of these devices has significantly reduced since they first appeared in the late 1990s. Yet there are still only about 15 insurers offering or trialling this type of product and until the more dominant insurers enter the market, public knowledge of the technology will remain low. Currently less than 1% of car insurance policies use Telematics and with estimates ranging between 10% and 80% by 2027, it is difficult to predict where the market is heading.
In addition, these black boxes to gather data are only being installed in the cars of younger drivers. There isn’t really any targeting being done to focus the use of such devices to higher risk groups, or indeed drivers with many previous claims. Clearly this is easier where the organisation has a previous relationship, or history with the driver. If that isn’t the case then external data should be getting used to help identify prospects who are likely to be careless or their lifestyle indicates they are more likely to be a higher risk.
From its earliest days, the insurance industry has been data-centric. In the past, insurance companies relied on historical data from policy administration solutions, claims management applications and billing systems. Today, the explosion of new data available is turning the insurance business model on its head. The growth in Telematics has had an especially large influence. Insurance is now a Big Data industry.
One thing is certain: Telematics data will play a key role in insurance pricing in the future.