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

Marks & Spencer launches pick ’n’ mix sweets

Marks & Spencer will take advantage of the demise of Woolworths by launching a pick ‘n’ mix sweets range in 100 shops from September. The retailer has been piloting the confectionery offer in six shops since April, along with “grab-and-go” bags of sweets for £1, which are to be introduced to 355 stores.

M&S confectionery product developer Lucy Clark told the Independent: “When Woolworths went bust I suppose we approached things in a different way and thought it should be a bigger opportunity and not something we wanted to miss out on.

“Pick ‘n’ mix creates a bit of a buzz in-store and I think the fact you are really showing off the sweets evokes nostalgia and takes people back to their childhood.”

Other retailers, including WHSmith, have also introduced pick ‘n’ mix sweets since Woolworths’ collapse.

[Source: www.retail-week.com, By George MacDonald]

Zara Kids unveils first UK store in London’s Covent Garden.

Spanish fashion giant Zara has opened its first standalone Zara Kids shop in the UK as it seeks to grab a larger slice of the £4bn childrenswear market.

The store has opened in London’s Covent Garden, next door to a traditional Zara shop. It was previously an accessories and apparel shop and has its own entrance and fascia.

Childrenswear is a lucrative market for retailers such as Gap, H&M, Next and Marks & Spencer, and is one of the more recession-proof sectors, because parents stop spending money on themselves before their children.

The market has also opened up further following the collapse of Woolworths, which had a large share through its Ladybird brand. Problems at Adams, which fell into administration and closed 147 shops before being rescued by its former owner, have also had a bearing on the market.

Research firm Verdict estimated the clothing sector as a whole will contract by 1.4 per cent this year, but that childrenswear will only fall 0.7 per cent, to be worth £4.6bn.

A Zara spokeswoman would not comment on possible roll-out plans. The retailer has around 200 Zara Kids stores globally, mostly in Spain, and sells childrenswear in many of its larger Zara shops.

Verdict senior retail analyst Maureen Hinton said the UK launch could be a shrewd move. “Zara Kids has been fairly low key – often downstairs in stores and not displayed in windows.” She added it could pose a threat to other mid-market players. “There is the possibility of taking share from Next, M&S and Gap. It is an attractive offer,” she said.

Bernstein senior research analyst Luca Solca said there is room for Zara to build its market share. He said: “The market is still fragmented and Inditex can certainly gain share. On the back of its Zara stores there could be an opportunity to make more of kidswear.” He estimated that Zara’s childrenswear offer generated sales of between €225m and €250m (£202.2m and £224.7m) in the year to January.

Marks & Spencer go green with nPower

Marks & Spencer has demonstrated its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by signing the biggest renewable energy deal in the British retailing sector. The company has entered into a six year deal with nPower.

Under the contract, npower will provide the retailer with 2.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind and hydro electricity from April. That’s enough to power all of the retailer’s stores and offices in England and Wales.

The contract also allows for a significant amount of the supply to be purchased directly from independent small-scale generators of renewables. Marks & Spencer has pledged to purchase enough renewable electricity to power its entire UK portfolio of stores and offices.

From a 2006/07 baseline, the retailer has reduced its like-for-like electricity consumption by more than 6 percent and sourced more than 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

In its 2007 corporate responsibility report, the retailer announced plans to make its UK and Republic of Ireland operations carbon neutral, landfill-free and sustainably sourced without passing on the extra cost to customers.

Marks & Spencer also has eco-factories in Sri Lanka and Wales that harness renewable-energy and recycling technologies.

Tesco and M&S offer cheap luxury meals

Tesco is offering customers a luxury meal-for-two for £9 in an effort to help them beat the credit crunch.

Finest range meals are available as part of the Valentine’s Day offer, which includes a side dish, dessert and a bottle of wine.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is also engaging in a similar promotion but Tesco claims that its deal is better for consumers.

Commercial director Richard Brasher said: “The Finest meal for two offer means customers can enjoy a special meal with a decent bottle of wine for a fraction of the cost of going out.

“And they tell us that the Tesco deal is better than the similar M&S offer because it provides the quality they want but at a cheaper price and is more convenient for them to buy.”

A similar promotion was unveiled at the company before Christmas and this deal is available at 500 stores.

M&S’s £20 ‘Love In’ promotion is also centred around Valentine’s Day.

Last week, TNS said Tesco had the lowest sales growth of the big four supermarkets, largely because of its discounting push.

INDIA: Marks & Spencer successfully opens its 15th store in Ahmedabad

UK’s leading retailer Marks & Spencer has launched its exclusive store in the city of Ahmedabad. Spread over a generous space of 14,000 sq feet, the store spreads over 2 floors at Dev Arcade Mall on S.G Road.  This is its 15th store in India.

Marks & Spencer is known for its international quality and value for money product range. The new store’s product offering includes Men’s wear, Women’s wear, Kids’ wear, Home Décor, Lingerie and Beauty Products.

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Sky launches online shopping service

Sky has become the latest entrant into the price comparison market following the launch of an online shopping service.

New Media Age originally reported in September that Sky was in talks with etail specialists (New Media Age 4 September) to launch a service. The service, provided by Digital Window, allows visitors to compare over 3.5m products from high street retailers including Comet, Woolworths and Next. Users then go through to the retailers’ sites to buy.

The site will offer targeted product recommendations to visitors as they move through its portal. The move into online shopping comes as Sky launches a Christmas site, sponsored by Marks & Spencer, which includes TV listings the period, games and gift ideas.

Sky recently added new sites to its portfolio including Sky Motoring, Sky Travel and Sky’s entertainment portal. Andy Jonesco, MD of Sky Online Business Unit, said, “Sky Shopping offers a fantastic online retail experience made even richer and more relevant by targeting products by site editorial.

The launch of the Christmas hub also shows our agility in creating bespoke seasonal sites which can harness the rich and diverse editorial from elsewhere on the portal.”

Digital Window also powers shopping offerings for Metro and The Sun.

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