October 22, 2016

Chat about event triggers, over breakfast in the Gherkin

By Paul Laughlin

event triggersThis week I had the privilege of speaking at a breakfast briefing hosted by MyCustomer and Royal Mail Data Services. It was a great opportunity to share how useful event triggers can be, from my own experience helping clients.

Those joining us for this ‘invitation only’ breakfast came from a range of sectors, including not-for-profit, Retail & Financial Services. Only a minority were already actively using Predictive Analytics, to target their marketing, but those who were used propensity models.

As I’ve shared in a previous post, timing can be so critical to the effectiveness of your marketing. Quoting recent reports issued by both Royal Mail Data Services & the DMA, I shared how relevance is the critical predictor of marketing success. Does your communication arise at the right time & place (c.f. mobile moments post)? Is it personalised in design & content, to focus on the job that customer wants to get done right now?

In designing this event, MyCustomer had wisely allowed plenty of time for discussions at our tables, following the talk. As a speaker, even when I’m very familiar with the topic, it’s always refreshing to be part of these conversations – plus I always learn something new.

This time, we focussed the discussions on the practicalities of how to implement event based marketing. Guests shared their answers to 3 simple questions. As you may also be in the position of revisiting the targeting of your marketing campaign, let’s review some common themes from their answers…

Question 1: Which events would be relevant to your customer & for marketing to them?

Not surprisingly, this did differ by sector & product category.

However, there were also some common events identified at my table:

  • Birth of children (often not first) or grandchildren
  • Moving home (or relationship breakdown when one person moves out)
  • Retirement (or in these more complex times, the phases of partirement)
  • Identifying that consumer is considering a purchase (location in a competitor store or online)
  • Wedding anniversaries, major birthdays & other events prompting a celebratory spend
  • Regular travel abroad to same location (potential second home or precursor to moving)

Just a few examples, as we also explored the ‘events’ that could be inferred from transactions with their business. Like large deposits, other purchases, changes in channel usage etc.

Question 2: What barriers prevent you from using such events data to target your marketing?

Here there was more uniformity of answer across sectors & across the tables. It boiled down to not having the data & being unsure of viability of getting it.

With Royal Mail Data Services (RMDS) also at the table, they showed great self-control by not selling themselves at this point.

The concerns about obtaining the event data they need were broadly of two types:

  1. Scepticism about buying the data from data providers (either not been done before or some poor experience in the past);
  2. Prompting customer to provide the data seemed too difficult (no obvious justification or benefit for customer, could feel intrusive).

What was interesting was that no-one around the table had previously identified the possibility of retrospective analysis. Taking a representative cohort of customers, previously marketed, for whom some have known events & others do not. This analysis could help identify whether or not there appears to be any statistically significant uplift in the one group compared to other & unmarketed control group.

Question 3: Would your marketing benefit from investing in buying such event data?

Most representatives were unsure. Due to the barrier outlined previously, they remained mildly sceptical but also aware of this potential opportunity.

The key challenge called out by a number of our guests was ‘making the business case’ for such spend. A previous post has highlighted how the requirement for a business case can actually be a good thing for insight leaders. Such a discipline can focus the mind on what needs to be proved & the quantum of benefit that would be a ‘hurdle’ to successfully exceed.

Here I was pleased to hear RMDS mention the possibility of helping attendees with analysis of their data. From my past experience of leading database marketing teams, this is exactly the kind of flexibility needed from data providers. The challenge for the database marketing leader is to judge the quality of data available & potential uplift achievable, before spending money.

In my experience, two analytics approaches can help here:

  1. A pilot, where data is swapped between the two parties for free (matching on key customer details). The provision of data to the potential client enables them to assess the accuracy of data on offer (compared to the few ‘in-house’ records, perhaps for existing customers, where the correct values are known).
  2. Retrospective analysis, if mailing volumes have been high enough & control cells are in place. This analysis overlays additional event data to identify comparable cohorts, with & without event triggers at the time of mailing. Comparison of relative uplift rates, compared to un-mailed control, may be able to identify potential to improve response if event triggers are used in future.

Overcoming past bad behaviour

That said, I can sympathise with the reluctance or scepticism of some participants. Other data companies (including data brokers) have acted very badly in the past. I’ve experienced, as have others: contract terms biased in favour of data provider; lack of transparency as to age/source of some data; deteriorating data quality compared to ‘priority clients’. Plus, in the worst cases dishonesty & deliberate misdirection of ‘in housedatabase marketing teams.

So, as with banks, there is some work to do in regaining the trust of consumers. I’m pleased to say that I’ve heard no such concerns with using Royal Mail Data Services and found them a pleasure to work with for this event. Hopefully such an open, content & discussion led conversation, including neutral industry experts, can help to build better relationships going forward.

I hope so, because many businesses do need to buy data to improve their customer understanding & timing for their marketing. When this is done well, it’s the customer who gains. Only receiving relevant marketing, when you are interested in ‘getting that job done’ is a much better experience for us all.

That’s a more positive thought to linger on over my coffee & croissants.