Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Big Data – an opportunity to transform or hoard?

You may already have the creeping realisation that everything we do is being tracked and somebody somewhere is creating databases of our actions. If you have Sky TV they know who you are, where you live, how old you are, what you like watching and so a behavioural view of your likes and dislikes which is of course extremely powerful.

If you go online regularly you will know of online cookie driven behavioural advertising where ads from a site you visited once seem to miraculously follow you around the world wide web as you visit other sites. Most sites drop cookies, little bits of code, on your computer as you visit them that then follow where you go and allow ad servers to deliver more targeted advertising to you. I, for example, am currently faced with pie dish ads from John Lewis or Debenhams wherever I browse. Guess what I have bought recently! The way to stop this BTW is to regularly delete your cookie cache via your browser settings.

The ability for brands to collect more and more data will only continue. The Nike Fuelband, which sports enthusiast wear on their wrists to track movement, is just one of a range of new portable computers. The much heralded Apple Watch and announced “me too” competitors from Google and Samsung continue this trend. The pinnacle of this is Google Glass the glasses with the onboard computer that allows you to search and share wherever you are while wearing the glasses like headpiece, set for release this year. Google it if you want to be amazed.

If done properly this is a massive opportunity that will radically transform businesses but it’s nothing new. I have already mentioned Sky but the best example of all time is Tesco and its Clubcard. They have arguably pioneered the use of data and clearly shown what can be done if you track user behaviour and use it to better target consumers with things they like. Everything from recommendations and offers, to an online shopping system pre-filled with your usual purchases, all checked through your club card and all possible because of clever use of big data.

I am not even going to touch of the privacy issues that will invariably happen when people actually start to realise what is being collected and who can access the data. Privacy aside however, the biggest issue has always been what companies and brands are actually going to do with all this stuff. It is all well and good collecting vast databases of customer data and behaviour's but unless you use that to deliver better products or services or more targeted less wasteful advertising it’s a big waste of server storage.

The trend for collecting more and more data will continue and I believe that like social media, the far reaching consequences will only be understood by a few at first. Quickly followed by others setting themselves up to “help” companies build data strategies to manage and benefit from this new opportunity. One thing that is certain is that in a few years time, companies and marketing teams will have a greater proportion of data analysts and clever mathematical genii than ever before. With the potential huge rewards of proper use of well gathered data, that is not a bad thing.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant - www.about.me/timyoungman Twitter: https://twitter.com/timyoungman

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Apple seasonal email marketing campaigns - great execution, bad timing

Normally Easter weekend is full of adverts from garden centres and DIY stores driving us to spend during our bank holidays. The current cold weather reduced this activity somewhat which is unfortunate on many levels and not just for the economy.

Seasonal marketing campaigns are a tradition but one that is being jumped upon by more and more brands trying to create a tenuous link to help them drum up some sales. You expect, for example, to see adverts for cards and flowers on mothers day. One global brand however managed to give us a great example of possible a stretch to far last mothers day.

On February 28th an email dropped into my personal mailbox from Apple that made me actually laugh out loud. As always with Apple email marketing campaigns it was a beautiful piece of creative. Nice clean design with strong imagery and lots of white space, well written with clear call to action points within the email. So all in all, a great example of how a good email campaign can look.

Unfortunately the heading of this email was “Make Mum’s day. Every day” with the subject line “Surprise Mum with a new iPad.” Now I don’t know about you but flowers and a card are usually in order for Mothers day and yes I do stretch to chocolates but an iPad, for mother’s day, really? The contents of the email did not stop there though. The different sections contained the headings “iPad with Retina display. Wait until Mum sees it.” “iPad mini. A big thank you for Mum” and “AppleTV. Now showing…whatever mum wants”. I suppose if you are going to use a tenuous link to sell your products don’t go half hearted.  As the Apple mailing list is rather large due to the popularity of its products this email was seen by many. So much so that the humorous comments it created on social media even got it trending on Twitter.

The bottom line is of course that email marketing is still one of the most cost effective marketing tools available to businesses today and when done well should be an absolute staple of a companies marketing mix. If that email from Apple converted into sales from even a tiny percentage of the Apple registered users it was sent to it would have paid for itself thousands of time over and been a success.

So if that’s the case does it really matter that for most people the email was one that created bemusement at the sales message than action? The answer is probably not, especially if you are the marketing or sales teams of Apple. For me though Apple is a company that hold a lot of data about its users and is a pioneer of the next big thing “Big Data”. In this case I just think they could use that understanding to move away from big broad brush campaigns to tighter campaigns that use proper segmentation and list management to send more personalised relevant messages to users. That combined with their best practice design and content they would create much higher engagement and probably better sales with less embarrassing social backlash. In the meantime I wait to see what they will link to Easter with great anticipation.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman