Taming the Data Deluge

Marketers and consumers struggle with the volume of data the world now generates. David Benady asks how the two sides can jointly control the tide, including the advent of brand ‘data stores’.

Data is inundating the economy, overwhelming consumers and businesses with swathes of information that they struggle to comprehend. The overload is set to spiral as social media, mobile and geo-location technologies spew forth yet more reams of data.

With billions of web searches made every month, more than 20,000 new books published weekly and more texts sent daily than there are people on Earth, data is increasing exponentially. The number of exabytes (EB – equal to 1bn GB) of information created in 2011 hit 1750, double the 2009 figure, according to IDC estimates. There is twice as much data as storage capacity.

This torrent of data makes it hard for marketers to ensure their brand messages are heard above the noise. Consumers have become reluctant to open the floodgates to receiving more irrelevant information, and some are wary of providing personal details.

Research company TNS has analysed the way in which consumers ‘eat’ at this table of information and created five consumer segments based on their readiness to absorb data. It calls the data deluge ‘information obesity’, and looks at the way people create their own ‘eating plans’.

You are what you ‘eat’
‘Fast foodies’, it says, consume the easiest, lightest data they can find. ‘Supplementers’ devour as much information as they can. ‘Carnivores’ consume only meaty chunks – whole books and in-depth research. ‘Fussy eaters’ are loath to consume information from any source, while ‘balanced dieters’ never consume too much information; what they do take comes from a variety of sources.

TNS marketing sciences director Russell Bradshaw says these ‘eating plans’ are a good way for marketers to target resistant consumers. ‘By understanding the predominant “eating plans” that exist among their brand franchises, brand managers and chief marketing officers have a tool for maximising the reach, resonance and values of their campaigns,’ he says.

TNS analysis suggests that ‘carnivores’ are more likely to shop at Marks & Spencer, while ‘fussy eaters’ tend to stock up at Asda. This gives M&S leeway to bolster its communications, giving customers big, meaty chunks of information they can savour slowly. Asda, meanwhile, would do well to deliver information in bursts and offer online nuggets such as tweets to appeal to voucher-hungry customers.

Marketers acknowledge that segmenting consumers by their propensity to consume information can be useful, but many see it as an add-on to the already tough task of identifying relevant audiences.

David Torres, global manager of chemicals technology at Shell Research, says that Shell intends to embed the TNS eating plans into its work, adding that brands need to search the data they have for clear and relevant insights.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Maurel, head of retention at Sport England, says the ‘eating plans’ could be useful if blended with other tools. ‘The TNS data obesity segmentation makes a lot of sense and rings true anecdotally. It is a great idea to segment by the information consumers are prepared to receive, although perhaps this is an extra step to be added to current tools,’ she adds.

Maurel’s role at Sport England is to use data to help various sports’ governing bodies to increase participation and attendance, a challenge for smaller sports, such as hockey. One solution is to take data from grassroots sources, such as social media, and integrate it with i n fo r m at i o n from elite sports events.

While small sports may be unsophisticated when it comes to data collection, Maurel says some governing bodies are using real-time data to build their popularity.

British Cycling, for example, gets feedback from locally organised Sky Ride mass-cycling events and feeds it through to its board meetings. This, in turn, helps it shape the way in which Sky Rides are organised.

For many brands, the UK’s data-chain is dominated by retailers. They control the all-important information about sales, which they then sell back to brandowners. Nonetheless, retailers, too, are suffering from information overload, according to Chris Osborne, retail principal at software supplier SAP. A recent survey by SAP found that more than half of retailers believe they have more information than they can handle. ‘Structured’ data – such as till receipts showing items purchased, times of day, quantities and prices – has been around for decades. Osborne advocates combining this information with ‘unstructured’ data – such as the random chat of social media – as the next great challenge for brands and retailers.

The prize will be to build a total view of each customer’s likes, behaviour and loyalty, and target offers accordingly. A crucial step is ensuring both types of data are gathered and acted upon in real-time.

Osborne believes the development that will enable this is ‘in-memory’ data analytics, where the data is stored in the computer’s memory for quick retrieval, rather than on a conventional database where it is stored on a hard disk, making it harder to access and wasting capacity.

He envisages a two-track economy where success will depend on efficient use of data. ‘The retailers that win out will be the ones that are very careful about how they use data and don’t swamp consumers with irrelevant offers,’ adds Osborne. ‘Retailers that create competitive advantage are (also) careful about how often they communicate with consumers.’

Useful data vs ‘noise’
Given the retailers’ iron grip on data, some brands have turned to comparison website Mysupermarket.co.uk to gain access to information about their own performance through mini-shops on the site. Reckitt Benckiser, Kellogg, Danone and Nivea are among those to have created such stores.

James Foord, vice-president of business development at Mysupermarket.co.uk, says brands are only just beginning to grasp the distinction between ‘data noise’ and what is useful. The site allows brand-owners to create a direct relationship with consumers and thus control their data. Brands can analyse the battle between their products and stores’ own-label versions, for example – data retailers rarely release. ‘This is the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. Brand stores will open up a whole new level of insight that has real value,’ adds Foord.

The battle for data control is about more than simply capturing as much information as possible and keying it into a database. Finding ‘smart’ data can save time and money in research and bring significant benefits for brands. The challenge is to find the pieces of information that help a brand locate its best customers and give insights into their motivation for buying a product.

Mike Dodds, chief executive of integrated agency Proximity, recalls a cat-food brand’s CRM programme in which customers were questioned about their behaviour. The question that delivered the best data was: ‘Do you celebrate your cat’s birthday?’ The responses helped the brand discover the most involved and valuable customers.

A potential barrier to the development of data-driven marketing will be consumers’ attitudes to privacy and control of their personal details. The online giants, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, have built their businesses on getting users to give up their data in return for ‘free’ services. If the public refuse to play, this could put a spoke in the wheel of the data economy.

Chris Combemale, executive director at the Direct Marketing Association, says brands have to be upfront about privacy and make their policies simple and readable: ‘If you can’t put the policy on one page and make it clear, you have an issue.’ He also warns brands to avoid being ‘creepy’ online – by serving ads based on details consumers thought were private – which, he argues, can make digital marketing appear intrusive.

Modern marketing is essentially a battle for data. However, consumers themselves have the ultimate weapon: to switch off and stop sharing their information.

Technology was supposed to make life easier, but, in reality, it has made the world far more complex. The task of creating marketing campaigns that get heard above the din will only get harder still in a society deluged with data.

Marketing © Brand Republic
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Asda launches zero-profit bicycles

Asda says it will not be making any profit on a new range of bicycles, which it claims are the cheapest available in the UK, launched as part of its Pedal Power promotion.

The retailer is seeking to increase the amount of cyclists by making new bikes more accessible to all. Its new range of four British Eagle bicycles offers child-sized versions for £50 and adult ones for £70.

“Price should not be a barrier on whether or not to buy a bike, therefore ASDA has worked incredibly hard to introduce these British Eagle bikes at a market-leading price on a not-for-profit basis. Cycling is the perfect low-cost activity for all the family to stay healthy and spend quality time together,” says Asda Leisure Trading Director Mike Logue.

The bikes will be in-store from 21 July to 9 August.

ASDA : Food price inflation has peaked

Asda CEO Andy Bond believes that food price inflation has peaked as the grocer announces over 5000 price cuts.

ASDA CEO Andy Bond said: “Despite today’s record inflation figures I’m confident that food price inflation has peaked and that we are beginning to see the cost of goods stabilise. When I talk to customers they tell me that they’re really worried about how to make ends meet and they look to supermarkets to help them.

That’s why I’m determined that as and when cost prices fall it will be ASDA which leads the charge and drives down prices for shoppers not just in the short-term but permanently.

“For the first time ever, from tomorrow, we are cutting the price of every single Smart Price food product. By lowering the price entry point to fresh food, value conscious shoppers could slash their weekly shopping bill by more than 50%.

Whilst this is our budget food range customers can be absolutely assured of its quality with every single product in the range being free from artificial flavours and colourings.

We will also be cutting the price of well-known brand and own label food and grocery items that households have to buy week in week out – in all over 5,000 products”.

Ireland’s Superquinn gets interest from UK grocers

LONDON: Superquinn, the Irish supermarket chain, said it had received expressions of interest from British retailers but denied its owners had put the business up for sale.

A spokesman for Superquinn and its owners, Select Retail Holdings (SRH), said “more than one” major British supermarket group had approached Goldman Sachs after the investment bank handled the sale of Bernard McNamara’s 14.5 percent stake in the chain in the spring.

“There was a disposal earlier this year from one of the original investors and it would appear that on the back of that there have been some expressions of interest,” he said.

He declined to comment further beyond stating that SRH was “not actively looking to sell the business”.

Superquinn has 23 stores and a 7 percent share of the Irish grocery market.

Irish newspapers have put a price tag on the business of around 450 million euros (360 million pounds) and named possible suitors as Waitrose, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, Asda, owned by Wal-Mart Stores, and J Sainsbury.

However, a spokeswoman for Waitrose said the retailer had not made an approach. Asda and Sainsbury declined to comment.

The newspapers said competition rules would probably prevent Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, from buying Superquinn as it is already the second-biggest player in the Irish grocery market. Tesco also declined to comment.

Frü Fruity Puds, launches new Frü Strawberry and Raspberry Trifles

Frü Fruity Puds, the premium chilled fruit-based desserts brand and fruity sister to Gü Chocolate Puds, announces two new launches to complement its six strong range.

New Frü Strawberry and Raspberry Trifles follow on from the success of Gü Chocolate Trifles, launched in May 2008 and recently nominated a Must Stock Product by The Grocer.

The new Frü Trifles will add value to the growing fruity range and offer different consumer eating occasions, from picnics to sitting in front of the telly. They also aim to drive further interest in the trifle market which is estimated to be worth £97m (source: AC Nielson June 2008).

Revolutionising the traditional trifle market, Frü’s new trifles feature fruit at the top as opposed to the bottom, giving consumers an instant fruit fix. They’re made with juicy berries, Bourbon vanilla custard, fresh whipped cream and vanilla sponge. Like their chocolate counterparts, Frü Strawberry & Raspberry Trifles are presented in 100% recyclable pots and striking white packaging.

This month also sees the launch of new Frü Seasonal Summer Puds which feature a compote of six summer fruits, including raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, a light sponge and a fruity syrup.

With less than 100 calories in each pud, they offer consumers a lighter, refreshing eat and deliver an intense fruit fix. Frü Seasonal Summer Puds are presented in stylish ramekins, perfect for stylish entertaining or as a midweek treat.

These new puds form part of Frü’s aggressive NPD programme which will include more new pudding launches throughout the year.

Becs Sears, Marketing Manager of Frü Fruity Puds and Gü Chocolate Puds, comments: “The Frü brand is worth approximately £5m in the UK and it is predicted that these exciting new products will add an extra £4m to the brand. There is clearly a big opportunity in the market for premium fruity puddings that deliver quality and innovation and Frü is perfectly poised to fill it.”

Frü is investing £200k in marketing support for the new launches which includes sampling, a new Frü website, print advertising and PR.

Frü Strawberry & Raspberry Trifles retail at £2.39 for 2 x 115g trifles and are available from Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Booths, Waitrose and Ocado.

Frü Seasonal Summer Puds retail at £2.99 for 2 x 90g ramekins and are also available from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.

Asda usurps Sainsbury’s in online stakes

Asda has becomes the second-largest online grocer in the UK, according to press reports.

The Independent cites TNS data that shows Asda boosted its first-quarter online sales by more than 70% compared to the equivalent period last year.

The performance catapults Asda over its UK rival to become the second-largest online retailer after Tesco.

The news will be regarded a blow to Sainsbury’s, which has wrestled with a number of technical issues over its website in recent weeks, causing the temporary closure of the site.

Asda overtakes Sainsbury’s to become No 2 online grocer

Asda has overtaken its rival Sainsbury’s for the first time to become the UK’s second biggest online grocer.

The Wal-Mart-owned supermarket chain grew its home shopping grocery sales by 71.8 per cent for the 12 weeks to 15 June, compared with the same period last year, according to TNS Worldpanel figures seen exclusively by The Independent.

The revelation will ratchet up the pressure on Sainsbury’s in the burgeoning home shopping market, although both supermarkets’ online grocery sales are dwarfed by market leader Tesco.

It is understood that Sainsbury’s grew online sales by just 17.3 per cent over the same 12-week period to 15 June.

Asda first overtook Sainsbury’s in May and has remained marginally ahead of its rival since then. Food and drink account for the vast majority of the TNS Worldpanel home shopping sales, but these figures also include traditional non-food grocery items, such as cleaning products.

Asda declined to comment on any comparison with Sainsbury’s but confirmed its online grocery sales had grown by more than 70 per cent for the 12 weeks to 15 June. Asda’s chief executive, Andy Bond, admitted last year that it had been slow to exploit the full potential of grocery home shopping, but since then it has been rapidly expanding its coverage in the UK. For the seven days to 15 June, Asda grew home shopping sales by 56 per cent, while Sainsbury’s was thought to have increased sales by 8.3 per cent.

Sainsbury’s declined to comment on the figures but said that its total online grocery sales over the past year – as opposed to a 7-day or 12-week period – were ahead of Asda’s. TNS World-panel refused to comment.

Sainsbury’s has suffered intermittent technical problems since mid-June with its online grocery site, which have now been fixed, but the TNS figures relate to the period before they occurred.

The online shopping battle is set to intensify in the autumn, when Asda relaunches its website on a new platform. A key goal is to ramp up online sales of non-food products, but ultimately Asda wants to offer customers a fully integrated grocery and non-food shopping experience. Sainsbury’s is also gearing up for a major online non-food push, including clothing.

Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco operate a pick-from-store model for grocery home shopping, while online grocer Ocado, which delivers Waitrose’s products, uses a hub-and-spoke model from an automated central warehouse. Tesco has also piloted a dotcom grocery store in Croydon, and plans to open another this year.

In the wider grocery sector, Tesco had a 31.3 per cent share of the market, Asda was 16.9 per cent and Sainsbury’s had 15.9 per cent for the 12 weeks to 13 July 2008.

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