Photo of REaD Group's Scott Logie

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

At the recent Data IQ event I jointly chaired a table discussion on the GDPR ready Single Customer View (SCV).  This turned out to be a very interesting experience.  First of all, there was a huge range of requirements, from B2B SCV development to “How do I get started”, “How do I get funding for an SCV” through to “How do I make my SCV real-time” and “How do I connect Google Analytics data into my SCV”.

This obviously created a lot of discussion with different brands, at different levels of development, able to share their experience with those who are just getting started.  Hopefully everybody enjoyed the discussion and got a lot out of it.

From a GDPR point of view, there were three main areas of interest that came out:

  1. How do I keep the data in my SCV current and up to date?
  2. How do I structure the SCV so that I can hold permissions and consent correctly?
  3. What do I need to do to ensure that I share the correct information with my customers, as and when this is required?

So, taking each of these in turn:

Keeping the data up to date

What became apparent during the conversations was that there are different levels of understanding of what is required under GDPR in terms of keeping data up to date.  This isn’t that surprising as most of the concentration to date has been on consent and ensuring that we have permission to contact the consumers we want to engage with.

However, we have an obligation as well to keep the data we hold current and clean.  And to archive or delete what is no longer needed.  In some cases this has not been considered, in others it was seen as a lower priority.

From a REaD Group point of view, our advice is very clear; with the GDPR Article 5 requiring that personal data be kept clean and accurate (or be deleted!) choosing a trusted solution to optimise the quality of your data and maximise compliance is now business critical.  Whether this is ad hoc but planned updates, real-time access via APIs or licencing of the different industry suppression products there is no choice but to make sure there is a solution that works for your business in place.

Structuring the SCV for holding consent

This is actually an area we have had to wrestle with ourselves, how do we hold the correct consent data, and all the associated information such as when consent was given, under which privacy policy, and re-consent in a use- friendly way in the SCV?

To be honest, there is no easy way to answer this.  We have tackled it by building a consent table that holds each of the key pieces of information – which allows us to manage change over time – that is then referenced on each customer record.  This allows us to ensure we keep the most recent permission against a record, by channel, but also enables us to track changes over time.  This does result in a very large lookup table but better that than extending customer records.

The other thing to bear in mind is to hold both what consent was gained, where and when but also what the usage you have agreed for that customer record by channel.  For example, you may have gathered consent to contact by Direct Mail but have chosen Legal as the reason for contact and this needs to be held.  In addition, note that this needs to be managed by customer, by product, by channel so can become cumbersome if not managed correctly.

Giving consumers access

Finally, from a consumer access point of view, I think there are two key things to consider in terms of contact: managing subject access requests (SARs) and also allowing consumers to see what information is held on them for permission management.

From a SAR point of view, there were two clear messages:

  1. Be very clear what is going to be shared as part of a SAR. It’s not my place to advise what the content should be but what was interesting was how varied and differently detailed each SAR response format was going to be. I think this is something to be tackled early, agreed with your legal teams and shared as appropriate.
  2. Having an SCV doesn’t sort out SAR responses but it helps a lot!  Having as much data held in one place as is possible makes the tracking of information needed for a SAR substantially easier.

From a permission management point of view, again there were a lot of different views and positions.  Some organisations, the more digital email only brands in particular, seem to be using their ESP to manage and share permissions with customers.  For others there was a work stream to agree what was to be shared and how.  Interestingly, no-one stated that they were fully on top of this.

There are many approaches to be taken here.  At REaD Group we have partnered with a business, My Life Digital, who provide a Permission Management solution.  We are implementing this for our own use and also recommend it for our clients.  Other solutions are available!

Overall, tackling GDPR compliance from an SCV point of view isn’t a luxury but a necessity.  Keeping the data current, tracking permissions and consent and ensuring that SARs can be responded to quickly and accurately are all part of the new world of data management.  It was very clear that there is a lot of work to be done, by big brands and smaller businesses, to meet the basics never mind the nice to haves.  It’s going to be a fun year!

Contact us today to find out more about how an SCV can transform your business

computer generated brain graphic representing artificial intelligence

By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

The robots are coming! Well, not quite, but the ever growing trend for implementing AI and automated systems to aid in our everyday lives seems to be showing no signs of slowing.

Recent research conducted by advisor company, Gartner, suggests that by the year 2020 a quarter of all customer service and support will incorporate chatbots or a similar form of virtual customer assistant technology. This seems like an astonishing figure, and one that has both positive and negative connotations.

The last decade has seen a huge jump in the proportion of people engaging on digital channels, and it is therefore hardly surprising that companies are investing more and more in these virtual customer assistants. Purely from a resource point of view such a transition makes a lot of sense; artificial intelligence (at least at this stage!) doesn’t ask for a pay cheque.

There is also a distinct advantage to the consumer – these automated systems are capable of functioning 24/7, without the need for sleep or coffee breaks. Furthermore, the prospect of a future free from hours spent on hold listening to Justin Bieber might not be the worst thing in the world.

However, when it comes to customer service, can human contact ever truly be replaced or replicated? According to research we conducted last year, 62% of consumers rated high quality customer service as the largest factor influencing brand trust and loyalty in the retail sector (Retail Trend Report 2017: New World, New Consumer).

While these virtual customer assistants are undeniably becoming more sophisticated all the time, it is the warmth of human interaction that creates this customer engagement. Some of these systems are capable of detecting frustration and anger in a customer’s voice and will transfer the call to a person in a call centre at a certain point. I find shouting down the phone helps. But by and large there is no doubt that they are still worlds away from being able to react and alter their response or attitude based on things like sarcasm and emotion.

There also comes a stage when we have to ask – where does this end? Do we eventually reach a point where human contact has been phased out entirely and we find ourselves reliant on machine to machine relationships? Say, for example, my bank bot detects that I’m overdrawn and applies for an overdraft on my behalf, and this instigates another chatbot which then decides whether to grant me said overdraft. The possibilities are dizzying, and somewhat terrifying – just one short leap to Skynet!

The question of trust and customer experience is not one to be overlooked lightly. The majority of consumers taking part in Gartner’s survey said that they find it difficult to trust VA’s to assist them with more complex tasks, such as handling their banking, insurance or utility issues (29%, 16% and 35% respectively). Therefore, brands will need to demonstrate to customers that they will still receive the same high levels of customer service once these technologies have been incorporated.

Perhaps if this predicted future comes to pass a balance will need to be struck between convenience and functionality. A system whereby technology and human work in tandem may be considered as an initial compromise – HAVA’s (Human Assisted Virtual Assistants). The idea being that when a VA is faced with a situation it cannot handle or a question it cannot answer, a human agent will then take over the conversation. The growing development of machine learning will also theoretically mean that VA’s are able to learn from these instances and adapt to resolve these situations themselves in future.

Essentially, it will remain to be seen how effective these VA’s are in maintaining the high levels of customer service that consumers have come to expect. Advancements in technology such as natural language-processing and machine learning are perhaps bridging the gap between the soulless and robotic automated systems that we’ve come to know, but can they ever truly hope to encourage the same level of engagement and replace human interaction? The next few years will certainly be interesting, but brands must be sure to put customer experience first, or risk dealing with the consequences.


By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

Working as I do in the data marketing sector, I am probably more sensitive to how my data is being used than most.  As an industry we very proudly boast about how marketing used to be mass market and big creative idea led but it has evolved over the last 20 years to being content and data led.  Indeed, we wear GDPR as a badge of honour that the use of personal data is now so high profile that new laws are needed to ensure that it is not misused or abused.

Also being from the industry I see, and also share, lots of case studies of how data is being used to create personal content, drive individual level communications or build real-time offers based on clicks, views and likes.  But in reality, how much of this is smoke and mirrors?  How much do consumers feel that they are receiving highly relevant communications and offers?  How close are we really getting to one-to-one marketing?

There is a slide in a deck that I use a lot that states that the benefits to brands of getting the right balance on personalisation are very powerful with return on investment 30% higher for companies who use data and analytics to personalise their marketing and customer engagement (source: SAS and Forrester Research). 

So there is a compelling business case yet, as a consumer, how often am I impressed by the marketing communications that I get?  Honestly, not very often at all.  What I get through the post is generally identical for me and my wife, often from the same company on the same day.  My inbox is jam packed full of emails which are clearly sent out to everyone on a database but, hey, sometimes they have my name on them so it’s personalised, right?  And on-line I’m pretty sure I see the same ads all the time and when I browse youtube or watch All4 I see the same ads as everyone else does.

We are creating a promise to build engaging, tailored, personalised content based on real-time data but we are not living up to that promise.

Other research I have seen has shown that only 25% of companies reckon their marketing could be described as personalised with around a third of marketing using some form of segmentation.  Segmentation feels like a dirty word these days.  It is often derided by many people.  Why would you use segmentation when you can get to real personalised content by analysing clicks and likes?  Why use a broad brush approach that classifies people into a number of groups when everyone can feel like an individual?

My response would be this – at least a segmentation can help to bridge the gap between mass marketing and one-to-one engagement.  Call it practice.  If we can tailor content, emails, adverts to a few segments then over time that can become automated and refined to get towards the personalisation utopia.

In many cases it isn’t even as if the segmentation doesn’t exist.  I see a lot of instances, sadly, of segmentation work being done but the next step of tailoring comms and starting to move towards a more personalised customer experience just never happens.  As a data analyst this makes me very sad indeed.  Maybe we are not being forceful enough in showing the value of implementation, of helping achieve that 30% uplift in ROI.

The longest journey starts with a single step.  My feeling is that many organisations are fearful of taking that first step.  There is a lot of procrastination – it will take a lot of effort, it should be perfect when we go live, let’s test and see what level of difference it makes.  Status Quo is the easy outcome, things are not too bad just now so let’s leave them as they are.

However, by not even trying to make a change we are letting the data down, we are wasting investment, we are letting the hard work by the analysts in creating the segmentation go to waste as well as the marketers who instigated the work.

But much much more importantly, we are letting our end customers down.  The next time a decision is made, or more likely, not made, to defer the implementation of a more personalised approach think about this: Would my customers be impressed by the current emails I send them?  Or the mail they get through the post from me?  Or the ads they see on-line?  Would they feel it was delivered just to them because I know them so well?  If not then what’s the risk of taking that first step?

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

Photograph of REaD Group CEO, Jon Cano-Lopez named on dataIQ 100 leaders 2018

LONDON 1 March 2018

We are absolutely delighted that REaD Group CEO, Jon Cano-Lopez, has been confirmed as a member of the 2018 DataIQ 100 which profiles the most influential people in the data industry.

Announced at a Gala Reception at OXO Tower last night, Jon joins an impressive list of people acknowledged to have the influence, profile, experience and knowledge to drive the data-driven marketing industry.

I am delighted and flattered to be selected for the DataIQ 100.  It is an honour to be recognised and to be associated with such an impressive list of data and analytics professionals – particularly at such an exciting time for the data industry.

Jon has worked in the data industry all his career, with an impressive CV spanning more than 25 years – including leading some of the UK’s largest data companies – Claritas, Altwood Systems, Acxiom, Ai Data Intelligence, Communisis and currently and now, as CEO of REaD Group – Jon has built a reputation for driving innovation and success in data communications.

He joined REaD Group in 2014, as part of the company’s exponential growth and is responsible for the strategic direction and continued success of the business – including adding some top brands to its A-list client base.

At the heart of this strategy is his belief that data sits at the heart of everything and understanding and interpreting that data is key to any brands success

In addition to building on REaD Group’s position as market leader in data cleaning and quality, he has been instrumental in developing the company’s service offerings – including an enviable insight capability and winning contracts for the delivery of Single Customer View solutions reflecting a real benchmark for REaD Group.

An advocate of utilising technology to drive innovation and deliver optimum results for clients – Jon is the driving force behind the implementation of Data as a Service (DaaS) at REaD Group.  As well as raising the bar for data quality and provision in the industry, the implementation of the GDPR throws up significant complexities for data processors and DaaS provides an elegant and equitable solution to that challenge.

Jon has been an authoritative contributor to the direct marketing throughout his career holding positions on DMA’s Data Council, various working parties and the Institute of Direct Marketing Data Council.  A genuine industry influencer, he is sought after as a media commentator and trusted advisor on data marketing, privacy, compliance and the GDPR.

Congratulation to Jon for this much deserved recognition!

The full 2018 DataIQ 100  can be found here