It has been one hell of a year – and we are beyond delighted to now be multi award winning in 2019! And to be shortlisted for three categories in the DataIQ Awards is the icing on the cake.
But, ultimately, the real winner is data.
With all the hype surrounding data – it’s the new oil, gold, best thing since sliced bread, etc – it is easy to lose sight of the real impact of using it intelligently. Well managed, maintained and respected data will drive better strategic decisions and deliver tangible value to businesses on a day to day basis.
To be honest some of it isn’t that sexy but has the potential to transform businesses and achieve outstanding results – and win awards!!!
Data quality is one of the bedrocks of good data management and an obvious first step towards getting the most value from data. The old adage of “rubbish in, rubbish out” has never been more relevant – or potentially costly. In these highly regulated times, all businesses need to be confident that their data is clean, accurate and complete (and compliant!). And with the technology available to manage data quality more efficiently and securely advancing almost daily, there really is no excuse.
It can be as ‘simple’ as understanding your customers better. If you know who your best customers are, what they like, and how you should be communicating with them, then your messages to them will be more personal and positively received (not just personalised). The right analytics can transform strategy and with dramatic results. And deeper insight projects can completely transform business structures and promote new and more productive ways of working – as the award-winning project we have delivered with Marie Curie UK, The Big SHIFT, so aptly demonstrates.
Using high quality third party data, from a credible supplier, can have a dramatic impact on marketing strategy – particularly when it comes to acquisition. If you understand who you best customers are (see actionable insight!) third party data can help you find more of them and engage with them in the right way – using the right channel, message and offer – to ensure more successful outcomes. As our client Titan has very successfully demonstrated.
A new marketing mix
We believe there is a new marketing mix in town – data, creativity and technology.
The companies that use the data they have to make informed decisions that drive both creativity and personalisation – and choose the right technology to put the consumer at the heart of everything they do – are in the best position to win.
As our multi-award winning year goes to show, get the balance of these right and the sky is the limit!
REaD Group are delighted to have won the Most Powerful Insight using Data Analysis award with our fantastic client, Marie Curie, at the Insight in Fundraising Awards last night! The awards recognise the best work, innovation and inspirational stories of individuals working in data, analysis and insight contributing to fundraising practices.
Marie Curie delivers nursing and care services across the UK, and people interact with the charity through many touchpoints ranging from hospices to shops. They were keen to understand what influenced this giving and how much of an impact local services, such as shops, hospices and nursing care impacts on the money received in donations and other giving.
A carefully constructed methodology enabled REaD Group to create a baseline fundraising landscape onto which Marie Curie-specific variables were overlaid.
Analysis of these ‘layers’ generated predictive models that were then mapped, highlighting areas where fundraising performance is above or below expected levels, in the context of the provision of services in the locality.
The models built have been used to show the impact each of the major activities have had on fundraising and other forms of giving.
For example, in a local community it is possible to quantify the impact of a hospice, a shop and the local fundraising group.
Understanding these impacts has not only provided invaluable insight for the charity to inform business and marketing decisions, it has also supported the business case for different areas of the organisation working more closely together.
A fantastic evening and so inspiring to see the wealth of talent and innovation being achieved in our industry. Huge congratulations to everyone involved!
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
I recently sat down to play a great new board game with my wife and two statistician friends (there was also lots of wine, food and great chat involved). The game is Borel: https://www.playborel.com. The basic concept of the game is fairly simple: through a series of experiments using dice, cards and coins, it seeks to find whether intuition beats statistical reasoning. Of course, there are conditions applied so that there isn’t really enough time to be too statistical, but it works as a concept.
As an example, if you were to roll three six-sided dice six times, will any consecutive numbers be rolled? Basic stats suggest this should be a no, but when we did this experiment the first two numbers rolled were one, and then we rolled again and got another one. We were so flabbergasted at this that we re-ran the experiment and immediately rolled two fives. A triumph for intuition it has to be said.
It’s probably no bad thing that we don’t get to play fast and loose with money in this way. In business, the most important thing is to ensure we have adequate data to make decisions and to increase the probability of those decisions being correct.
Retail’s gut feel
Imagine looking for a new store location, but not considering the road network, the parking availability, the demographics of those who shop in the area, their disposable income and the likelihood of them buying the products you sell. That would be unthinkable: except that not so long ago, siting locations for stores was done very much on instinct. It’s only been in recent years that all these factors have come to play a part, thus ensuring that there is every probability that a new store will be in the most successful location possible.
Recently I watched an interview with one of Sports Direct’s directors. He said that their decision over which failing store groups they bid to take over was based on gut feel. While retail has a notoriously strong reputation for gut feel, I’m also pretty certain they have a formula: a way to evaluate the potential in a business to remove as much risk as possible and optimise the likelihood of success.
Note that many of these phrases are statistical by nature: every probability, remove risk, optimise success, increase the likelihood. We use stats every day, without thinking about it. Can you guarantee success?, we are often asked. No, but we can increase the probability of it happening.
Probability in marketing
As marketers, we don’t make huge decisions about investments in new stores or which companies to take over on a daily basis. But we do get measured on the success or otherwise of our campaigns, and of course we try to ensure that we weight the odds in our favour as best we can. Every day we use probability to ensure that we are delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
Outbound communications, for example, are all about maximising returns: contacting the most relevant individuals with the minimum investment. To do this we use profiles, models and segmentations to help us understand as much as we can about our targets, remove those least likely to respond and find those who are more likely to want to buy our products.
Online, there are different ways to find the most relevant targets. Sometimes it is left to machines to help us do this, but in the background are similar algorithms, finding people (or cookies of people) who look like they browsed the same sites as those who clicked through. Even the way we find these cookies uses statistics, using probabilistic matching to try and find the same person across numerous machines.
Making your marketing as good as it can be
As with all modelling, the more data we have, the more observations of an event, the more variables we can vary, then the better our decisions will be. Our mantra at REaD Group is that the more you know about an individual the better your marketing will be, which is why we are always looking for data to help us create a more complete picture of our customers’ customers. Sometimes that data is at the individual level and sometimes at the household or even the postcode they live in. In the end, though, it is all about probability and having a better chance of getting a response to a campaign.
One of the joys of Borel was that the number of observations was kept small, the number of variables was low and the time to make a decision was short. Hopefully by adding more data, building up more history and ensuring that more information is available, we can help our clients make better decisions by providing more information.
Incidentally, I won the game by the slimmest possible margin and my wife, who based everything on informed hunches, was right behind me. I’d love to think my stats background gave me the edge. But maybe we need to play again just to be sure.
This blog post originally appeared on Decision Marketing: https://www.decisionmarketing.co.uk/views/data-driven-decisions-are-better-than-a-hunch-right
By Felicity ‘Flick’ Ward, Credit Controller at REaD Group
It seemed like such a good idea at the time – all I have to do is not speak for 6 days… If Julia Roberts can do it in “Eat, Pray, Love” then it should be no problem for me. Many were incredulous that I would be able to stay quiet for so long – “YOU, not speak for 6 days?”, “Flick, you must be joking”, “You’ll NEVER manage that” – I could go on.
Not to be deterred, and encouraged that some of my disbelieving friends and colleagues had pledged sponsorship, I booked the Bali Silent Retreat bang in the middle of Ubud – no getting away then!
As my departure date approached, I started to have serious doubts (and borderline panic) but off I went.
It turned out to be an absolutely amazing experience – bucket list stuff! I loved the tranquillity, the place was stunning and having no contact with the outside world at a time of intense political turmoil was so welcome.
My daily routine consisted of:
5am Ginger Tea
6 – 7am Meditation
7-8.30 am Yoga
9.30 am BREAKFAST
Free to explore, eat lunch etc. until
2pm – 3.30pm Yoga
3.30pm – 4.30pm Meditation
4.30 – 6pm DINNER
Then early to bed.
My daughter had bought me Eat, Pray, Love to read which I started on the morning I arrived and finished an hour before I left – I hadn’t appreciated the inscription until I opened it – “Dear Mummy – one family’s quest for silence”. It was the perfect book to read…
I tried all sorts of things I had never experienced and to be honest, never thought I would – labyrinth walking meditation, crystal meditation, water meditation (freezing!!) and all sorts of yoga positions I never thought were possible!
I had time to really get to know myself, explore my innermost thoughts and heal from the frantic life we all seem to lead and all of the pressures we put upon ourselves – such as the expectation of instant (and constant) communication. No mobile – so no Whats App, no email, no text and NO BREXIT!
I fell in love with Mount Batur which I could see from my terrace and decided to have a go at painting it (no judgement please, I know I’m no Monet!).
I amazed myself at my ability to keep absolute silence – I didn’t even talk to myself (something I swear I do on a regular basis!).
This really was an unforgettable experience and one which was made even more poignant as two days after I left the Retreat I received news of a dear friend of the family, aged 27, who had attempted suicide but had miraculously survived.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, and the main reason I wanted to undertake this self-imposed silence (besides raising as much as possible for CALM and setting a personal challenge for myself) was because mental health is an issue that people often struggle to talk about and there are so many who suffer in silence.
Thank you so much to everyone who sponsored me and for everyone that understandably doubted my ability to pull this off, I am so delighted I proved them wrong.
It is still not too late to sponsor me so please, please, dig deep for this truly amazing charity: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/REaD-Group2
By Jon Cano-Lopez, CEO at REaD Group
It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since GDPR’s implementation, but things have calmed down considerably in the interim and overall, we are in a much better place. In the last 12 months consumers have become more informed about what their data is used for and equally businesses are paying more attention to the legitimacy of their data and its use and applications. Importantly, companies have started to be much more considerate of the consumer perspective – understanding that a simple customer complaint could lead to financial penalties and reputational damage.
Clarity from confusion
As the GDPR is a principles-based regulation, there has been a considerable amount of confusion in the market as there are some aspects that have no fixed parameters. However, grey areas such as the reasonable amount of time that data should be retained are starting to reach consensus, resulting in self-imposed best practice being seen in the industry. We will undoubtedly see some of these currently accepted norms change in the future as a result of newly published guidance and based on the outcome of audits.
It is becoming normal for our clients to request documentation to evidence the legal right to use the data we provide – and in a transparent and easy to understand format. This will ultimately ensure that data collectors who are fast and loose with their due diligence are removed from the market, which is good for consumers and for the data industry.
Not just about consent…
Reassuringly, people have begun to realise that there is more to the GDPR than consent, or more generally ensuring that you have an appropriate legal base for processing data. Other key requirements, such as the misuse and security of data as well as data accuracy, are starting to take the spotlight. Collecting data in a legal manner is not enough – it must also be retained legally. Data must be respected as a valuable asset, and as it decays so rapidly it must be kept up to date.
As an industry, data quality is something we have always wanted to be recognised at board level – and GDPR has made this a reality.
Standing out from the crowd
It’s encouraging to see that companies and brands are really understanding the importance of giving consumers choice. Companies must now try and appeal to an increasingly discerning and aware audience, which means that finding ways to distinguish from competitors has never been more important.
Consumer communications have changed almost beyond recognition in the last decade (it’s astounding that the law hadn’t been updated since the DPA in 1998!). Similarly, PECR is also more than 10 years out of date and falls short of answering the complex legislative challenges encountered in today’s marketplace. GDPR was, for this reason, desperately needed.
Data elevated to board level
With an increasing number of businesses investing in DPO’s and CDO’s, data and governance is finally being raised to board level. Shortly after GDPR was introduced, many well-known brands ceased using data altogether for fear of doing the wrong thing. The majority have now resumed, but this has meant that scrutiny and assurances over the provenance of data have become even more vital.
Only the beginning
It’s important to realise that GDPR is only the beginning – the ePrivacy regulation (ePR), expected to come into force next year, will address much needed change in digital communications legislation. In tandem the two regulations should ensure that consumers are more informed and trusting of how companies are using their data, as well as ensuring that businesses are using data responsibly.
We can all take heart in the fact that, one year on, GDPR is no longer being seen as an inconvenience or a box to tick, but as an opportunity and a change for the better!
REaD Group are delighted to have been shortlisted in three categories in the DataIQ Awards 2019:
- Best place to work in data
- Best use of data in a marketing programme with Titan Travel
- Transformation with data with Marie Curie
The awards recognise the skills, commitment and capabilities of individuals, teams, organisations and solutions of the top performers in the data industry. Aligned to the value-driving champions and the challenges they meet, judged by the top tier of practitioners.
We’re looking forward to awards night on 10th July – see you there!
By Chris Turner, Head of REaDConnect at REaD Group
We can all attest to being bombarded with articles and advice on that overly (and at times incorrectly) discussed data protection regulation – to the point where it has almost taken on a Voldemort-like status. The mere mention of it might inadvertently summon the ICO. However, GDPR has, from its inception, presented a change for the better and a huge opportunity for businesses.
It’s important to remember that the legislation wasn’t primarily designed for organisations; it was designed with the consumer in mind and to champion their interests. Nevertheless, we can’t forget the consequences of failing to adhere.
Prior to GDPR’s implementation the primary focus for data quality and data cleansing centred around wasted mail being sent to people who wouldn’t receive it. Over a 6-year period from 2005-2011 Royal Mail had over 158 million undeliverable items of mail (it would be interesting to know what this figure is now!). It’s easy to understand how this can be the case given that, every year:
- over six million people move home
- more than 600,000 people die
- at least 500,000 addresses change for reasons such as postcode boundary updates
Data cleansing has too often been seen as a cumbersome expense, however, in a post-GDPR world we should be viewing it as an opportunity. It’s not just about the money – at a time when consumers are increasingly conscious of their impact on the planet, being seen to be wasteful in terms of thousands of undelivered mailpacks bound with single-use plastic is sure to cause reputational damage.
And the distress caused by mailing the deceased has the potential to be even more damaging to a brand. Consider the social fallout for a major bank trying to promote a re-mortgage offer to a couple who are no longer together… and now imagine the reason they are not together is that the husband is now a widower with three children.
If we consider this scenario from another angle: Imagine a major bank sending a re-mortgage offer to a widower with three children promoting its ability to support families with ease of the switch process, payment breaks, vouchers for a major high street toy store and a donation to a charity of their choice. So really – is data quality an opportunity or a cost?
Many organisations feel it’s enough to have robust processes for dealing with complainants and returned mail by removing these records from their database. However, most people simply bin incorrect mailings rather than making the effort to return them. Brands need to ensure their data is clean and accurate before contact is made because, by the time a complaint or goneaway is received, it’s already too late: money has been wasted and damage done.
Data cleansing has always been a relatively simple process but has traditionally relied on batch processes and manual interaction. Essentially, prior to an organisation contacting their customers with an offer or promotion they will provide this data to a 3rd party who process against industry leading suppression files like GAS and TBR. Data is returned with incorrect records flagged or removed and the contact continues.
In the age of technology, it seems strange that we are still reliant on people to run these processes. Why do we not simply schedule tasks and pat ourselves on the back? Part of the reason for this is the pure size of data assets (GAS contains over 98 million names and addresses) and complexity of data matching algorithms.
Recently Royal Mail commissioned a report into Dynamic Customer Data in a Digital World which for me hit the nail on the head. It’s time to change the conversation.
Are Data Quality and Data Cleansing an opportunity or a cost?
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
Many years ago, sometime back in the last millennium in fact, I joined what was then Bank of Scotland as head of a team called Customer Knowledge. We were part of the Strategic Marketing department and were responsible for helping the bank understand who their customers were and how better to sell to them. I think we were pretty successful; we built a life-stage based segmentation, embedded campaigns around it and saw response rates as high as 25% to some of our mail campaigns.
However, my objective when I joined had been to get on the board and be the bank’s first ever Chief Data Officer (CDO). In that, I totally failed. In my 5 years at the bank we grew data understanding, built a full data warehouse (probably a puddle rather than a lake), created a data quality programme and ensured data was at the heart of all customer communications. We did a lot of education and got great buy in from senior people, including the Treasurer of the Bank (the most senior executive possible). And yet, a board level data person would never have been considered.
Therefore, it is really heartening to see Chief Data Officers in many organisations. There are probably a number of things that have driven this change. First of all, the evolution of the use of data, and the importance of data, over time. As businesses have become more digital in all aspects of what they do, this has created more and more data and that then needs responsible people to look after and manage it. Businesses will hopefully then start to see that data is an asset.
I have had a couple of interesting discussions over the last week or so around valuing data. TFL for example, who make much of their data open for free to developers and app designers, have still put a value on that data. They know what the value is, even if it is something they offer out FOC.
Secondly, there are the native digital businesses, the ones that started digitally rather than undergoing an evolution. For these companies, data has always been at the heart of what they do. As such having someone as the data “owner” has always made sense. Without management and interrogation of the data these companies subsequently wouldn’t thrive and be successful. Often this has run hand in hand with the same person who runs the technology although these roles have then diversified over time.
Finally, there is the impact of GDPR. If data wasn’t being discussed at board level beforehand – and it should have been – then it is now. Suddenly it wasn’t just about data being an asset and having a value, it was also about risk. A mistake with your data could result in a massive fine, so let’s make sure someone’s got the responsibility of ensuring that doesn’t happen.
Data used to be a subset of marketing and/or IT and many tensions arose because of that. Now data is central to organisations and needs to sit alongside these disciplines as well as many others such as operations, HR and finance. The value of the data on customers, performance, staff, suppliers and so on means that the real owner of data now is the CEO and therefore having one person report in who is managing the control of the company’s data is vital.
In some ways, it was easier back before Y2K. The data was simpler, the volume of it a lot lower and the usage a lot less. The savvy businesses were those that saw the growth in data at that point and put someone in charge of the whole data estate. For them, the elevation of that person to CDO was straightforward. Those that fudged this decision and spread the responsibility around have had to react. In many cases the decision to appoint a CDO has still not been made.
My own view is that in the next 10 years this role will become more prevalent and be one of the essential roles around any balanced board table alongside Finance, Operations and HR. Data is such a vital tool for businesses to operate at their optimum capacity. Manage it well and see your profits rise and rise. Manage it poorly and not only will your competitors win but the downside risk of fines and brand exposure could be enormous.
There are lots of reasons why I would not want to be starting my career all over again but, if I was, having an ambition to be a CDO would definitely be on my list and maybe it would be more likely now than when I was starting out.
By Alice Miller, Account Manager at REaD Group
One of the most inspiring things about working for REaD Group is our fundraising activity and commitment to a new charity every year. We select a charity that has been nominated by a member of staff, provide them with pro bono marketing services and spend the year trying to raise as much money as we can!
Last year we raised over £12,000 (including Gift Aid) for MS Society, thanks to a year packed with sponsored waxing, quizzes, bake-offs and other fun events – and especially due to some intrepid employees trekking 10 peaks in 10 hours in the Lake District! The Charity of the Year gives us a chance to come together as a team and raise much needed funds for causes where every little really does make a big difference.
This year, I nominated CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably. CALM is a national, male suicide charity. It focuses specifically on men as 76% of all suicides are male, and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.
Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m particularly supportive of mental health campaigns. However, the work that CALM do is especially close to my heart as I’ve lost two male friends to suicide in the last few years. It is difficult and tragic to see anyone battling with mental health issues, but it’s important to remember how far-reaching its impact can be – suicide affects families, friends and communities too.
We were fortunate enough to be visited this week by one of CALM’s fundraising officers, Emily, who came into the office to talk to us about the fantastic work that CALM does:
- Providing frontline services for men, including a free and confidential helpline and webchat
- Promoting cultural and societal change, enabling conversations and encouraging everyone to speak out about their mental health experiences
- Campaigning for better understanding of the causes of suicide and its prevention.
I think we all left the talk feeling incredibly moved – I spotted more than one person who had ‘something in their eye’ – and inspired to get stuck in to some fundraising and smash our target from last year!
To help kick things off this year I’ll be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October. If you haven’t met me, I am not a runner (at the start of the year I found it difficult to run for a bus!) But my running bug seems to be infectious, as 22 members of staff have signed up to run the Asics London 10k in July – we’ll keep you updated throughout the year with our progress! Please give generously if you can and help us raise money for this incredible charity!
Any donations are hugely appreciated and regular updates on our fundraising activity can be found on our JustGiving page.
Find out more about the great work that CALM do here!
By Scott Logie, Chair of the DMA Customer Engagement Committee and MD, Insight at REaD Group
I recently had the privilege to chair the DMA’s Future of Customer Engagement event in Bristol. I lived in Bristol for nearly 10 years, loved the city and still do. It’s a vibrant, cultural hub with great art galleries, restaurants and gig venues. It also has a very active marketing community and that was evident both in terms of the 60 plus people who came along and also the wide range of speakers at the event itself.
The event was built around some research we have done as the Customer Engagement Committee. We’ve done a lot of research over the last few years and in all the studies have taken some time to focus on what the likely future trends are in terms of areas that consumers would like to use to engage with brands. Tim Bond, from the DMA research team picked out 4 key trends:
Chatbots – those virtual assistants who help you on-line. One of the key stats that Tim shared was that men were more likely to want to engage with chatbots than women (36% v 26%). As a middle-aged man, this didn’t surprise me, anything to avoid talking to real people. The sooner these are used to replace doctors, customer support teams and dental nurses the better!
Voice – generally seen as Alexa or Siri but really any voice activated device at home or on the move. The key reason given for using voice commands was convenience which makes sense. My worry here is how freedom of choice is retained as more and more decisions are left to devices to make.
Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality – using devices to bring locations or products alive. This is clearly one of the most exciting aspects to consider when looking at any future trends. Something we all (‘we’ two thirds of us) express interest in but the challenge here is how you move from something that is a gimmick to something that adds value.
Gamification – using competition, goals and targets to incentivise customers to change behaviour. As a Fitbit obsessive I really get this but haven’t linked any of my goals to a product yet. There are insurance companies, and banks as well, giving rewards to customers who can prove behaviour change – live healthy and pay less for insurance – why not!
In addition to the research we had a panel discussion around these four topics that drew out lots of areas for discussion, but for me the key point was that while tech is maybe driving some of the change we are seeing, tech alone is not the answer. This then brought us back to one of the main principles of the whole Customer Engagement campaign – to show that the brands that will win in terms of building long term loyal relationships will combine tech, data and creativity to achieve this.
The next three sessions were really testament to this. First of all, Ian Hughes from Consumer Intelligence showed how insurance companies from around the world are, right now, breaking down barriers and allowing consumers to buy insurance in ways that suit them. The main driver for this is putting the customer in control – so no more need to buy a large one-off insurance policy for your car when you only use it 3 hours a week; or using life insurance to purchase policies that can provide a real-life event for those left behind rather than just paying for the funeral. Interestingly, most of the innovation was being driven from outside of Europe and North America.
Neil Mackin from Amazon Web Services then presented on two topics. The first centred around how AI and Machine learning are impacting on lots of areas within Amazon – from distribution and warehousing to recommendation engines and next best offers. The second was what Amazon are doing to make a lot of the algorithms they develop available for use by brands, universities and just ordinary people. They are often derided as being the example of all that is bad with online retailing, killing our high street. However, the impression I was left with was one of a book retailer becoming a tech giant and using the work they do responsibly and sharing the learning.
The fun and informative final presentation was from Lovehoney, the UK’s largest on-line retailer for sex toys and lingerie. They are a real South West success story and grew out of observations made by marketers on what products were going to sell in the future and, guess what, sex sells! In addition to being probably the only presentation I have sat through where a full range of wild and unmentionable *ahem* toys were discussed repeatedly, the thrust of the session was really how well structured Lovehoney are around the customer – from staff training, product reviews, product testing, email comms and on-line interaction they showed how the customer is key to everything that they do.
In many ways that summed up for me the key takeaway from the really excellent afternoon, which is that all the tech in the world is useless unless you know the customer, know what they are like, what they want and then provide that to them in the most convenient way possible. As the world changes and what we see as traditional marketing dies away, the winners will be the brands, and the suppliers and agencies that support them, who really take that lesson to heart. Being personal is knowing the end customer, and ensuring the engagement matches their preferences using whatever technology and content that is available to do so.