Tag Archives: multi-channel marketing

Big Data – a new world of consumer information

Some four years ago, I was chatting to the head of a large data company, who was complaining that he had, on average, over 80K pieces of transactional data per supermarket customer.  Taken at face value, that sounded terrific.  But his difficulty was in understanding what was significant and what was not, so that he and the client could identify and use the relevant data quickly and effectively.  As I started speaking to more businesses, I heard this theme again and again – even Debt Collection Agencies found they just had too much data and not enough time to be able to understand how to find and apply the useful key data to improve their results and ROI.

 The Three ‘V’s

Even in the few years since then, volumes of data have simply exploded – Analyst Doug Laney described it accurately as being three-dimensional – a combination of volume, velocity and variety. His terminology is now widely used.

Big Data began with consumers shopping over the internet.  Businesses started to save and analyse data from clicks, searches, registrations, purchases.  Of course, having collected the data, many companies were quite clueless about how to analyse and use it.  But those who looked further ahead, like Amazon, were able to harness its power to gain market share against their competitors.

And the situation has developed further. More recently, consumers have discovered other uses for the web and smartphones – they use social networks where they post personal and business information about themselves, they link and hold conversations with their friends, family and colleagues, they post updates and information and photographs and music and films and videos and reviews and … the sky (or should I say cloud) is the limit.  And the data they are so happy to provide is available for marketers and businesses if they’re ready to take advantage of it and can cope with its relatively unstructured nature.

Combined insight:  Big Data plus traditional data

Data has always been used extensively by consumer-facing businesses to segment and target customers.  But Big Data demands a more agile approach towards engaging customers, and providing a more personal or tailored shopping experience.  Combining Big Data with the traditional purchasing and customer data previously used by business offers a massive opportunity to gain three-dimensional insights into consumers – whether for marketing purposes, product development, or customer service and management.

Forward-looking businesses and retailers will track an individual’s behaviour, including product or offer preferences, and model – in real time – that consumer’s likely behaviour.  While the customer is shopping, the business will be able to offer appropriate upsell products, loyalty programmes and increase spend and loyalty much more effectively than any competition who fails to take advantage of the opportunity.  The retailer will know when it’s safe to offer credit and on what terms;  they’ll know what the consumer wants and will be able to choose how … or whether … to deliver those needs.

Big Data Benefits

And the benefits are not just limited to retailers.  Telcos, media companies, utilities, energy providers;  insurers and aggregator sites – Big Data allows genuine communication between provider and consumer – and the consumer is beginning to understand this, and take advantage of opportunities to “switch” providers or suppliers or retailers so that they interact with those who understand their needs and wants, and are prepared to engage with them on that basis fairly and openly.

Big Data Big Issues

As ever, Big Data has its difficulties as well as opportunities.  There are concerns about data security and data privacy.  And not least, concerns about the ability to analyse Big Data –reflected in the growing number of software firms who specialise in data management and analytics – growing at almost 10% per annum – which is roughly twice as fast as the software business as a whole.  According to McKinsey, by 2018 as many as 140,000 to 190,000 additional specialists with deep analytical skills in Big Data may be required.

And there’s a Big Data technology revolution too – Big Data will need new and different technologies to allow efficient data processing swiftly enough for the data to be deployed effectively in realtime, such as MPP (massively parallel processing) databases, the Internet, and cloud computing platforms.

So where will Big Data go from here … interesting times!  And    whether you’re a marketer, a data provider, a software business, or an insight and analytics business, those who adopt an agile, creative approach to the issue will be the overall winners.

Click here for more information on TVA’s Data services.

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996.  She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud.  Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, April 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So what’s new about multi-channel marketing?

multi-channel imageWell, I know I’ve been in marketing for a long time. But I can’t help raising a wry smile when I hear today’s up-and-coming extol the virtues of this or that media channel, and propose it be used as a marketing tool. Occasionally (too rarely) they even suggest testing and measuring results. And the listener is left with the impression that direct marketing is all their very own invention.

There is no doubt the media opportunities have evolved beyond recognition since the direct marketing of the ‘90s. As well as traditional channels like direct mail, loose inserts, press ads, telemarketing, package inserts – all of which are, when appropriately used, an effective part of the marketing mix – we can include email, websites, e-commerce, mobile commerce, apps, social networks, blogs, e-newsletters, microsites, links, PPC etc etc.

And it’s not only the number of channels that has expanded. So has the number of vessels which deliver our communications every day. Technology’s exploded into smartphones and iphones, tablets and ipads, readers, smart TVs, pcs, laptops, Macs. Print media is also evolving – with more advertising in return for free information, QR codes to integrate with new technology, and a greater degree of personalisation within customer communications.

To cope with the diversity and range of channels, marketing platforms are evolving to help businesses integrate their marketing and make it customer-friendly.

Of course the prolific nature and ongoing evolution of marketing channels drives a correspondingly diverse number of “experts” who offer a range of “optimisations” – search engine optimisation, conversion optimisation, click-through optimisation, social media optimisation and so on.

But what I find so interesting is that, despite the new and continuously evolving channel opportunities, the basic principles of direct marketing are unchanged. It’s still a science that involves data, analysis and insight, media choices, creative and design, pricing, branding, product, offer, research, communication, delivery and customer service.

And it’s still about identifying and understanding the customer. Testing data, channels or media, offers, products, new ideas, new creative / copy, response and delivery mechanisms is still an essential part of the process.

And, vitally, it’s still about identifying and measuring the business’s key metrics ongoing to provide insight and refinement of ongoing, healthy and integrated activity.

Certainly there are significant shifts in consumer behaviour – they are more sophisticated, with a shorter attention span. They are hit by multiple messages about multiple products and services from multiple businesses via multiple devices. The lines between above- and below- the-line advertising have blurred to the point of oblivion – which does make the measurement of individual media channels a little more challenging.

But ultimately, the aim of any successful business has to be to deliver appropriate and seamless services, products and communications to its customers, while allowing the customer to deliver communications back through the channels of their choice. And the company that can achieve that is the company that will succeed, both now and in the future.

by Victoria Tuffill 30th August 2012

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Multi-channel marketing … in schools

I was fortunate enough to enjoy reading and literature from a very young age, and, as a child, my father introduced me to Isaac Asimov. I promptly inhaled all his fiction, and, in particular, I remember reading a short story which has always stuck in my mind, called “The Fun They Had”. In that story, two children are reading with wistful enjoyment (and utter disbelief that any human could possibly know enough to be able to teach) about something called “school”, where children learnt and played together.

In Asimov’s future, every child has a mechanical “teacher” in their own home – programmed to the child’s own ability, which teaches and assesses its pupil on all subjects. The story was written in the 1950s and some 60 years later, Asimov’s vision of the future of teaching seems to be moving ever closer – and it’s certainly not taking hundreds of years.

Today we have extensive online education tools through all stages of education – from primary school vles (virtual learning environments) such as Espresso and Education City to all the way up to the scale to university and beyond. We have Fronter from Pearson – now widely adopted in London … there’s Noodle … Moodle … online revision tools … CEM (introduced into universities as early as the 1990s and since adjusted for use earlier in the educational process) … Open University has invested heavily in digital tools … support apprentice programmes like Blackboard; and many adult e-learning courses both for businesses and individuals.

However, there are still schools and universities, many of which are embracing technology in ways that other business sectors may find enviable.

Multiple marketing channels in education

Modern technology not only allows the provision of e-education, it also enables schools, colleges and universities to promote themselves, their brand, their goals, their community and their achievements to meet their own business goals and fulfil their ambitions.

Schools have unique challenges, which they address through the combined use of digital and traditional channels. State and private schools have subtly different goals, but today schools from both sectors are embracing technology to support their core priorities:

  • improved levels of achievement for their pupils (and better rankings in league tables)
  • a strong desire (particularly in the private sector) to raise awareness and persuade potential parents to choose that particular school for their children – just the same as any other business, but servicing a very specific market sector

The differences in technological philosophy between private schools (who have to find their pupils) and state schools (where pupils are admitted based on geographic location) are interesting. In general terms, state schools have been driving e-learning based on the curriculum; while private schools have been embracing technology to drive marketing.

But those differences are gradually becoming blurred, particularly with the advent of Academies and Free Schools. Schools use a variety of marketing channels to promote themselves and their community – from websites, SEO, print, direct mail, email, social media, e-learning, mobile technology, and TV and radio.

A strong emphasis on websites

Websites are essentially an interactive prospectus for schools, and provide a channel for self-promotion, dissemination of rules and policies and, importantly, to:

  • Engage parents – through inclusion of information, fixtures, exam statistics, OFSTED reports, news, pupils’ work and homework, blogs, school reports
  • Engage pupils – provide the facility for pupils to engage with each other and their teachers through private areas of the website, offer e-learning including “games”; internal debates; encourage contribution to school news reports and blogs
  • Engage the local community – publicise and involve the local community in school events, support local events, and form links with local industries
  • Raise money – publicise fundraising events; school charities; alumni engagement
  • Sell merchandise online – uniforms, equipment, sportswear – even souvenirs –directly from the website

There are some fantastic websites both from private and, more recently, state schools, who are now starting to see and reap the benefits of a good website as they begin to identify themselves as a business.

Social Media, digital and traditional PR

Use of digital PR is increasing in schools, combined with traditional PR through press and media, in a cohesive and integrated strategy to keep branding awareness, engagement and enjoyment of the school firmly in the public eye. A great OFSTED report should be shouted from the rooftops – as well as within a schools reception area; a visit from a famous author or celebrity makes an involving story; excellent exam results; a particular pupil or group of pupil’s remarkable achievement; school charity fundraising; particular sporting success; availability of school facilities to the community – all these provide opportunities to communicate and publicise the school both locally and farther afield.

But social media in schools has obvious challenges, and often has its own section in a communications / ICT policy. A problem with bullying or inappropriate posting is very serious. So it can be a tricky balance for a school to use Facebook or Twitter to promote themselves while adopting a proscriptive approach about whether or how their pupils may use them.

However, blogs, e-newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest can be an effective part of a school’s overall multi-channel strategy, and can set an example to involve pupils in how to use social media wisely and understand their benefits.

A good example is set by Kelly College, who uses Facebook to promote the school, disseminate information, generate interest, good press and involvement for parents, staff, pupils, and the local and wider community – working almost as a microsite of the school website.

Of course the traditional PR channels are also used – press, community magazines, a printed prospectus with stunning photography, broadcast media, posters and print. Broadcast has an added advantage of the ability to load videos onto the website and Facebook and You Tube … to enhance involvement and drive improved Google rankings.

Keeping up with Technology

It’s noteworthy that much of the technological innovation in education comes from the children first – they know and use the new technology; they have an instinctive understanding of social media, the internet, tablets, smartphones and the internet – all of which are a fundamental, living and breathing part of their lives. There are “rate your teacher” or “rate your food” sites; children already use social media to keep in touch with their friends … and to achieve objectives – whether it’s a Twitter campaign to prevent the appointment of a new head teacher, or a fund-raising exercise from a blog about school meals. So how much of a school’s social marketing activity could – and should – be developed and produced with pupil involvement ‘in-school’?

The increasing availability of notebooks and ipads is also impacting schools – it’s not that long ago that having an ICT suite was considered very forward thinking. Now schools are developing and implementing strategies for a time when all pupils have notebooks or ipads – in which case ICT will become a thing of the past!

My thanks to Jessica Avery and Peter Provins for sparing the time to talk to me.

by Victoria Tuffill, August 2012

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.