Building connections across the customer journey

Marketers need to balance data and insights to deliver the best consumer engagement strategies. How can data inform this process without overwhelming creativity and experience?


Morag Cuddeford-Jones, moderator

Hugh Cullman, director of connections & draftLine, AB InBev

Richard Jones, chief marketing officer, Cheetah Digital

Dan Rubel, brand & marketing director, Dixons Carphone

Rob Worthington, customer director, Anthropologie

What insights are marketers using to improve the customer experience?

RW: The number of sources has exploded. We’re using a combination: bespoke market research to technical-driven analysis and in-store behaviour. Personally, talking to customers directly is hugely beneficial.

DR: We have lots of methods to keep in touch and pore over our own data. And just staying close to what people are saying on social helps you stay close to the underbelly of what people are thinking and feeling.

HC: It’s interesting that we’ve started a bit old fashioned. You’d think we’d be talking about cookies and data. Yet, it’s all about talking to people. At AB InBev, we have a lot of sources, but some of the most profound campaigns we’ve worked on have come from understanding our consumers and customers. 

RJ: We’ve gone ‘back to the future’ with a direct connection to consumers. It’s important to think about the context of where we are in marketing. Facebook and Google have a coterie of third-party data that makes it very easy to hyper-personalise. But we’ve almost gone in the opposite direction [now] with privacy, and that’s a good thing for marketing.

Where are you gathering the most valuable insights from?

DR: We rely on automated personalisation and rich data when we personalise experiences but that nudge messaging. Asking customers what they want is becoming very powerful.

HC: As sponsors of the Premier League, just asking a simple question – what team do you follow? – and giving them the right content is a very straightforward, very transparent transaction for the consumer. 

RJ: Consumers [think] ads based on location data from companies they didn’t know is creepy, not cool. There’s definitely a change in consumer attitudes to some of the tactics we’ve been using in digital marketing over the last decade.

RW: It’s far more important to give [customers] experiences that are relevant to them. We’re now quite driven by understanding what the individual customer wants to see. There’s been a big shift.

Is there a ‘back to basics’ approach to targeting?

DR: We’ve had a pretty profound year on personalising which will shape our business for a long time to come. We [now] offer customers a 24/7 video shopping experience, talking to the same experts we’ve spent years training [in-store]. We sell things people don’t buy that often and it’s nice to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about.

HC: B2B doesn’t have to be emotionless. It can have heart. ‘Save Pub Life’ was a deep emotional need. The campaign [came] because we understood that lockdowns would be a huge problem for the industry. You didn’t need deep data, but you did need deep empathy.

Could too much data stifle creativity?

DR: There’s a danger that we convince ourselves that granularity and analytics is not an essential part of being a brilliant marketer. It is. But it’s not the only part. The most impressive marketers like a bit of granularity, but they don’t get lost in it, and they’re bold. I wish that our industry would encourage those behaviours. 

RW: Granularity has given us the ability to quickly see what’s going on. You can do that at the same time as brand-building. Reacting to changes in the market and switching to trying things on digital; that becomes a learning, another data point. It all points towards building the brand. 

HC: Marketing is always about the art and the science and if the science can help you take smarter risks, that’s fantastic. But there is so much data. You can get lost in it and you can use it to obscure the absolute truth. You need to know the ‘why’ behind the data. 

RJ: There are parts of the marketing eco-system that are going to have to rely more on creativity than data than they have in the past. Privacy and the death of the cookie are having an impact on multi-touch attribution. But our ability to take risks that aren’t necessarily justified by data, that’s 100% part of our job as CMOs.

Is there enough respect for the marketer’s judgement compared to the data? 

RW: The really standout campaigns are where someone just has a fantastic idea. The brave companies are the ones that implement that idea, then they can measure it through the data. That’s the joyous bit of marketing, when all of that comes together. 

HC: Data allows us to take more risks. Data after you’ve made a decision is incredibly impactful too. Data allows us, via our internal agency – draftLine Labs – to put ideas out into the market for a very small cost and see what’s working. 

DR: I’d disagree that there’s more data now than ever before. I remember being just as data-focused at the start of my career as I am now. I often make this plea: let’s not be negative about data. Embrace it; do it in the right way and create better marketing that is bold and innovative.

How do marketers make data sources relevant for customer targeting?

RJ: The IAB said it’s not just about the direct-to-consumer relationship. You now need to think of the value exchange of free services, discounts or delivering deeper experiences such as loyalty programmes. 

RW: Customers are happy to gie us information as long as it’s in return for something of value. We have a loyalty programme, not based on points but on softer benefits such as early notification of product or a birthday treat. But the nub of the scheme is to grow that relationship. 

HC: If you can anticipate their needs, that’s of real value. Loyalty programmes are an area where we can continue to have a relationship with our consumers. We have amazing sponsorships, and we can offer exclusive access which is valuable to the consumer. It’s important to figure that out because we don’t have the more traditional ways of having that data exchange. 

DR: We have an enormous loyalty programme that isn’t points based. Of course we use the programme to communicate deals, but we also use it to create a turbo-charged welcome journey. What we land are tips and hacks to look after the tech you’ve bought.

RJ: The one thing that loyalty programmes have always done is act as a brilliant conduit for data from consumers. There will be an expansion of modern loyalty programmes that are the frameworks for bringing brands and consumers closer.

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