DataIQ Awards logo with fireworks in the background

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.

https://www.dataiq.co.uk/events/events/dataiq-awards-2019?tab=shortlist

We’re looking forward to awards night on 10th July – see you there!

a pair of scales weighing 'opportunity' and 'cost'

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?

Contact us today about our market leading data cleaning products

man removing shirt to reveal CDO superhero logo

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.

CALM - The Campaigning Against Living Miserably logo

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!

robot dancing with disco ball , title - The Future is Now?

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.

REaD Group CEO, Jon Cano-Lopez, with DataIQ100 logo

We are delighted that REaD Group CEO, Jon Cano-Lopez, has been confirmed as a member of the 2019 DataIQ 100 which profiles the most influential people in the data industry.

”I am delighted to be recognised in the 2019 DataIQ100. It is an honour to be associated with such an impressive list of talented and influential data professionals.”

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.

Jon 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.

Integral to this strategy is his belief that data sits at the heart of everything – and understanding and interpreting that data is key to any brand’s 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.

A passionate 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 GDPR’s implementation last year presented significant complexities in having 3rd party data processors – and DaaS provides an elegant and equitable solution to that challenge.

Jon has been an authoritative contributor to the direct marketing industry 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 a trusted advisor on data marketing, privacy, compliance and the GDPR.

Congratulation to Jon for this much deserved recognition!

CIM Marketing Excellence Award Finalists - REaD Group

REaD Group are delighted to have been announced as a finalist for the CIM Marketing Excellence Awards 2019! In partnership with Ageas Direct, we have been shortlisted in the Best Use of Data and Insight category. The award recognises the intelligent use of data to create compelling insights, resulting in an improved product or customer experience.

The CIM Marketing Excellence Awards identify and celebrate outstanding marketing by organisations, individuals and teams. Now in their tenth year, these awards continue to recognise that high standards of quality and integrity are vital to the success of marketing, as well as rewarding the innovation delivered by marketers who are at the cutting-edge of their profession.

Using data and insight intelligently to better understand your customers should be at the forefront of every marketer’s mind.  With the wealth of data available it makes perfect sense to utilise such an invaluable asset to improve personalisation and customer experience (and drive competitive advantage!) – provided that this data is used responsibly.

We’re looking forward to awards night on 11th April – see you there!

Get in touch for more information on our engagement services

customer engagement: expectation vs reality

By Scott Logie, Chair of the DMA Customer Engagement Committee and MD, Insight at REaD Group

The DMA recently published its findings from their research into marketer’s attitudes towards customer engagement (and how this compares to the perceptions of consumers). It has been fascinating to see where opinions differ in relation to brand’s engagement strategies and what genuinely engages consumers. A classic case of expectation vs reality.

From the consumer side, we have been conducting surveys since 2016 to discover how they feel about the attempts of brands to engage them, encourage them to purchase and entice them to come back!

The research reveals that marketers may be mistakenly over-valuing certain channels for engagement, such as social media, and overlooking more conventional channels that customers prefer. Additionally, while offers and price are still important, too much focus is placed on them when there are even more effective methods for gaining customer loyalty and attention.

Email and social media dominate customer engagement: 68% of marketers use email for customer engagement and 62% use social. Only 30% use post and only 17% use messenger apps.

As a prime example – supermarkets are beginning to discuss reducing the variety and selection of products available on shelves, and we are approaching a stage where technology might soon be making these decisions! However, consumers explicitly highlight ‘choice’ as being integral to their custom.

On the other hand, brands seem to be focusing their efforts on concepts such as portraying a ‘cool’ image and supporting personal development…which consumers aren’t overly fussed about. Unsurprisingly what customers are really looking for is functionality, whether that be for the product or the service being provided.

We also asked marketers which brands they believe have winning customer engagement strategies. Who came out on top? You guessed it – the omnipresent, inescapable Amazon! Nevertheless, brands seem to be underestimating the effect that the brand has had on consumers and the level of expectation it has created.

The Amazon effect is more pronounced than expected: 10% of marketers chose Amazon as the most engaging brand of the last 12 months, but the ecommerce company was selected by 14% of consumers. M&S, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s (all 4%) also fared well among consumers.

When considering acquisition and retention campaigns we addressed the key differences between them and how consumers and marketers might consider them to be successful. Once again, marketing communications seem to be mainly focused on brand awareness, whereas customers really want more and clearer information.

Engage your customers well and they will be loyal. However, those returning customers will then want to be rewarded, and this research has flagged that there are still a surprising number of brands ignoring loyalty programmes and the opportunity for additional engagement they provide.

Loyalty programmes are not universally offered: Just 49% of organisations currently offer loyalty programmes, despite 70% of marketers feeling customers enjoy and value rewards offered by such schemes. Again, consumers want more than points and discounts to feel they truly valued.

All in all, the survey provides some great insights into the current state of customer engagement and the challenges brands face to close this gap between their perception of what their customers want and what they actually want. While there is nothing wrong with making eye-catching communications, brands must not lose sight of the bigger picture and should asses their efforts today and strive for greater engagement tomorrow!

DMA members can read the full report here

red, green and blue underpants on a washing line with the text 'treat your passwords like your underwear'

By Andy Bridges, Data Quality and Governance Manager at REaD Group

Why should you treat your passwords like your underwear?

It’s an odd comparison, but it’s simple really:

  • You wouldn’t leave your Y-Fronts lying around for just anyone to find
  • You certainly shouldn’t share them with others!
  • And you change them on a regular basis (one would hope…)

Contrary to popular belief, human error and accidental loss are still the biggest contributors to data breaches in the UK – rather than attacks by cyber criminals. While it is perhaps unrealistic to expect people to change their passwords as frequently as their undergarments, good password management is incredibly important to information security. A simple 7-character password could take a hacker only 0.29 milliseconds to decipher, however, increasing this to 12 or more character will increase the potential hacking time to centuries rather than seconds.

Greater Transparency

Research conducted by the risk mitigation firm, Kroll, at the end of 2018 found that the number of data breach reports received by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has increased by 75% in the last two years. This isn’t necessarily indicative of more breaches, but more likely an increase in transparency as a result of GDPR. It was not previously compulsory to report a data breach, but the new data regulation requires that all companies must report a breach to the ICO within 72 hours.

Above all else, data security should now be a COMPANYWIDE responsibility. It does not rest solely on the shoulders of IT and compliance departments, but with everyone working within a business. Every effort should be made to incorporate information security into office culture so that it becomes second nature.

Embed into Company Culture

Staff should receive regular training to ensure that everyone understands best practice in the workplace. Company HR policy should also be altered to reflect the fact that responsibility lies with all employees to instigate better behaviour.

Everyone in the business should be on the lookout for potential threats to information security, such as leaving computer screens unlocked and leaving confidential paperwork unattended, and should be encouraged to self-police. Implementing a clean desk policy is good practice for safeguarding confidential information.

Companies need to better understand what information they have in order to protect that information. As well as ensuring that data is clean, viable and that all relevant permissions and consent are held for the data, companies must also ensure that the appropriate data protection and information security practices are in place. It states in Recital (100) of the GDPR that:

 ‘In order to enhance transparency and compliance with this Regulation, the establishment of certification mechanisms and data protection seals and marks should be encouraged, allowing data subjects to quickly assess the level of data protection of relevant products and services.’

Essentially these practices are entrenched in GDPR under Article 25 – ‘Privacy by Design’ and ‘Privacy by Default’. These concepts are by no means new, but are instrumental in incorporating information security into business culture.

Privacy by Design means businesses need to consider privacy at the initial design stages and throughout the development process of any new products, processes or services that involve processing personal data.

Privacy by Default means that when a system or service includes choices for the individual on how much personal data he/she shares with others, the default settings should be the most privacy friendly ones.

GDPR has presented a great opportunity for UK businesses to step up their data protection strategies and better protect themselves against data breaches. The regulation stipulates that companies must be more rigorous in their approach to collecting, storing and using customer data – which should correspondingly see a vast reduction in accidental loss. This increased transparency should ultimately result in more trusting and loyal consumers.

The more businesses understand their obligations and ensure they have implemented appropriate data protection strategies, the sooner we will see a significant reduction in the number of data breaches.

Red box with REaD Group DaaS logo - 'Data Cleaning in real time!'

As the memories of Christmas overindulgence and lethargic bliss begin to fade, we must begrudgingly turn our attention to the new year. Back to business. While the usual resolutions of healthier eating and gym memberships may, in some cases, not last till the end of the month, there is a certain resolution we recommend you make in 2019…and stick to! Quite simply – CLEAN YOUR DATA.

Data is the cornerstone to any campaign. By using poor quality data, you immediately put yourself at a disadvantage and this will have a knock-on effect to the rest of your marketing endeavours. Ensuring your data is clean and accurate from the start will provide the best foundation for all subsequent activity.

Not Just Good Sense, But Law!

One of the key requirements of last year’s new data regulation (GDPR) is that inaccurate data must be rectified and cleaned without delay – or deleted (Article 5(1)d). The primary focus for many companies in the lead up to GDPR’s implementation was understanding the legal bases for processing data, with the majority concentrating on consent. However, it has been very encouraging to see more and more businesses acknowledging their obligation to data accuracy.

We have it on good authority from some of the UK’s leading retail brands that data quality is high on the agenda for 2019:

‘‘to ensure we hold the most accurate and up to date customer data, as well as continuing to fulfil our obligations under GDPR and relevant mailing requirements.’’

High Expectations

Customer trust can be very difficult to cultivate. With a number of scandals surrounding data occurring last year this is more true now than ever. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the data they share, and increasingly savvy when it comes to data protection law and their rights. In research conducted by REaD Group last year we found that more than 70% of consumers expect their data to be accurate [Source: Accuracy and Relevance – GDPR Impact Series 2018]. The tolerance for companies getting it wrong is decreasing all the time.

The risks of brand damage incurred from using poor quality data are huge. In the age of social media, headlines are no longer necessary for news to go viral – anyone with a Twitter account can now wreak untold damage with 280 words and a well-placed hashtag!

Be Responsible

More than the prospect of brand damage, companies now have a duty to consumers to be transparent and responsible when handling their data. This is, after all, why GDPR was introduced. This responsibility extends to ensuring that data used for campaigns is accurate.

Unnecessary distress and anguish is caused by continuing to contact deceased individuals in your database – and will certainly make most people think twice about continuing to use your brand in future. Many consumers now consider it a given that companies make the effort to keep track of relocations and goneaways.

Simples.

Unlike dragging yourself out of bed at silly o’clock for that early morning run or eating that quinoa salad (while your colleague demolishes that burger and chips) – data quality doesn’t have to be a struggle! With established and trusted data quality services such as GASTBR and GAS Reactive from REaD Group – available via a choice of flexible delivery methods to suit organisational and technology requirements, it is now achievable and affordable to optimise the accuracy of your data.

Start this year right – contact us today for your free data quality consultation!