Customer loyalty and ustwo

The rise of data as an enabler of loyalty initiatives and return on investment has been the emerging story of the past ten years, says John Sinclair, co-founder of ustwo


The ascendancy of Tesco through its strategic investment of Dunhumby’s proprietary approach and technology is a prime example of how a targeted focus on understanding customer behaviour, and tailoring solutions to them based on that understanding, pays dividends at the bottom line.

Sir Martin Sorrell recently said that the future of advertising and marketing services belongs as much to Maths Men as it does to Mad Men. He was talking about the ever-increasing importance of big data and technology to his advertising and marketing company, WPP. While he wasn’t saying that creativity is taking a back seat, it’s recognition that brands are desperate to achieve a deeper understanding of their customers through data.

Our view at ustwo is that data is most often used as a tool to sell more stuff and target more offers at people in an age where more and more brands are shouting at us to buy more stuff. Whether or not you believe that it’s more targeted, more personal, more relevant, we should all question whether it’s valuable and useful.

We saw something funny on Facebook the other day: “Big data is like teenage sex. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” That feels spot on. In the rush to embrace data as a means to get at the heart of what customers are doing, we are (yet again) falling in love with technology rather than building a genuine relationship with our customers, so they fall in love with us.

In that respect then, the data-fuelled loyalty programme is just another iteration of the “marketeers straight line”. Design a branded ball (our message), aim at someone’s head (our customer), throw the ball as hard and straight as possible at that person’s head (our message), and they will most certainly take notice of us. Sure, but they probably won’t love you for it.

Big data is like teenage sex. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it

At ustwo we think the worlds of branding and marketing, and the worlds of experience and service design, feel like two religions apart. If you are a brand competing for love, it’s easy to take the tried-and-trusted road of spending millions on campaigns and loyalty programmes.

The design of beautifully crafted product and service experiences that generate a long, sustainable relationship with a human also gets a lot of airplay. But in our experience, the latter doesn’t usually get the budget that campaign and loyalty gets.

Imagine a new religion for loyalty that brings the understanding of behaviour through data, blends in understanding of behaviour through user-centred design, and focuses on delivering love and loyalty.

For most big brands, success for marketing is not necessarily linked to success for customer operations, which is not linked to success for sales, technology and so on. This typically creates dysfunction and breaks our brand and loyalty promises to customers.

It is even more tangible in the digital product and experience area with consumers expecting hyper-personalised engagement via mobile experiences. They expect instant, locally relevant gratification that works beautifully and they don’t care how brilliant your data model is or how effectively that allows you to sell stuff to them. If it’s not working, they will tell the world about it.

Whatever your view on the explosion of data, we all accept that brands know a lot about us, and many of us will happily trade that data to get better service and experiences from our brands. But it’s not the only thing we want and, if you are a brand that promises a brilliant experience or product or service, then we expect you to use our beautiful data to deliver that.

Data and money are a powerful thing, but they don’t deliver loyalty alone.

At ustwo we are on a mission to help brands keep their promises by focusing on how they behave over how they talk. We design brilliantly considered and crafted experiences using the power of design thinking and data. That’s how you get people to fall in love and, if you can continue to deliver that personal experience over the years, then you get loyalty.

www.ustwo.co.uk