Data Is People: Data Is Valuable

When we talk about customer data, what we are really talking about is individuals: people like you and me. As a business, if a customer trusts us with their data, we should be doing everything we can to repay that trust. At all times, we should be using that data wisely, ethically and responsibly. Enshrining the principles of responsible marketing in everything you do is not only the basis for a good relationship with your customers and prospects but also the springboard for data-led businesses being more relevant in the current environment.


Why be responsible?


The world has changed dramatically for brands. There is less face-to-face contact with customers and prospects, and a corresponding rise in digital services, while customers are suffering from an array of financial difficulties.


In April 2020, research from Kantar showed that only eight percent of consumers thought brands needed to stop advertising during the COVID-19 outbreak, but their expectations of what brands should be doing were huge: 78 percent believed brands should help them in their daily lives; 75 percent said brands should inform people of what they are doing and 74 percent said companies should not exploit the situation.


More recently, research by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) found overwhelming evidence that consumers (77%) think that brands should show compassion during the pandemic: 66% want brands to communicate how they are helping customers and 58% want to know how they are supporting staff. Over time, we have seen that the ethics and credentials of brands are becoming an important part of the consideration phase for many consumers, and this is a natural extension of that during these difficult times.


The DMA report also highlights a rise in personalisation, a trend that has accelerated during COVID. As consumers give up greater amounts of data about themselves, particularly with the rise of online shopping under lockdown, there are those who are becoming savvy about both the value of their data and their ability to restrict its use. The trade-off is that brands will need to provide more relevant information and offers. So how should they go about this?


Data quality


Behind every record in your database is an individual – and how they react to receiving marketing matters. Data IS people, so it makes sense to treat this data with respect. While keeping data up-to-date is now required by law (GDPR), more important is the fact that consumers expect their data to be kept up to date (a recent survey found that 85% said they wish there were more companies they could trust with their data). Simple housekeeping, such as removing deceased contacts, will avoid both brand or reputation damage and causing unnecessary distress to family members.


Another element of maintaining the quality of the consumer data you hold is the identification and suppression of individuals who have moved from the address you have in your database. Gone away suppression – identifying those people who have moved out of a residence – reduces campaign costs, avoids creating fear of identity theft and prevents the loss of valuable customers who have failed to alert you they have moved home.


The bottom line is to treat the data you hold on an individual as you would want your own data to be held. This will help to create a data quality culture, enshrining data quality principles and practices within your organisation. But not only that: data quality also contributes to the bottom line, with research showing that the higher the data quality of an organisation, the more efficient and effective it is. In 2020, data quality was a top priority for 55 per cent of UK data leaders, a significant increase from 41 per cent in 2019.


Quality data


As we’ve discussed, everyone should be treated as an individual – the more you know about them, the more personalised, targeted, relevant and responsible your marketing will be. Quality data (legal, compliant, deep and rich) enables you to reach more of the right people – detail adds insight, and insight enables nuanced, tailored communications. Customers should also be given the right to opt out and manage what they receive.


A comprehensive and permissioned marketing database will help you to find more of the right people. With more data about your customers’ transactional history, lifestyle choices, hobbies and interests, behavioural insights and geo-demographics, you can target your campaigns at every level.


There are also now datasets available to marketers that estimate COVID-19 risk factors and infection rates across the UK at a neighbourhood level. These datasets contain multiple different measures of risk at a range of local geographies, using open source and GDPR-compliant data.


As a marketer, you can use this data to gain greater insight into your customer base at local and national level, enabling you to maximise marketing and sales opportunities and operational efficiencies. While things remain uncertain, you can also add to this the fundamental requirement of customer and staff safety: in other words, how to operate and communicate safely within a COVID-19 world.


Action your insight


Insight is all very well, but do you know what to do with it? You may have a lot of information about your customers, but it is knowing what to do with that information that is the key to true engagement, success and more profitable relationships. Profiling, segmentation and modelling can help turn raw data into actionable knowledge: uncovering new markets and providing greater customer knowledge to optimise customer acquisition and retention campaigns.


Segmentation can help you understand your customers and is the key to unlocking the true value of your data and maximising ROI. Data segmentation involves separating a customer base into groupings of individuals with similar characteristics. This can include a number of different classifications – such as spending habits, location, demographics and behavioural preferences. This insight will enable you to truly understand your customers and allow you to provide them with a much more tailored marketing experience.


Based on a customer or prospect’s past behaviour, it is also possible to construct propensity models that can help to predict how and when they are likely to engage with your brand in the future. This allows you to identify who your best customers are and provide them with personalised communication that will encourage increased response rates and LTV.


The key to responsible marketing


In a world awash with data, now is the time to put it to good use and apply it to make sensible, sensitive decisions that inform your marketing strategy and support data-driven decisions. And by putting people at heart of everything you do, treating everyone as an individual, and respecting the data you hold, you’ll be well on the path to responsible marketing.


Scott Logie is Customer Engagement Director at REaD Group and Chair of the Customer Engagement Committee of the DMA.