It’s rare these days that a group of data-driven marketers will get together to discuss issues of the day without mentioning the phrase “marketing database”. Yet, in a recent conversation with Simon Chatfield, head of Ecommerce and CRM at Heathrow Airport, about his talk at I-Com, this is exactly what happened.
To our combined amusement (and amazement), we had managed to get through an entire two-hour conversation without the term arising even once - despite marketing databases being a central component of Heathrow’s customer solution. What occurred to me, upon reflection, is that, while unusual, this isn’t quite as surprising a revelation as I first thought. The reality is that brands and marketers alike are increasingly focused more on what is happening, rather than how something happens - the collective end result which impacts the consumer.
What matters to all brands, without question, is growth and profitability, which can only come from happy and engaged customers who have enjoyed the experience they received from that brand. If you think about some of the most successful brands today, the main focus is on creating an experience which the customer can buy into and enjoy just as much as the product. From Tiffany’s scented boxes to Burberry’s instore digital innovations in shopping tech, we are seeing a growing shift where data and statistics help to develop and deliver a personalised and engaging experience both online and offline.
It’s clear, in no uncertain terms, that great customer engagement cannot be achieved without creating the most complete, accurate and actionable customer view. Yet, it is refreshing to see that brands are looking more and more to the outcomes and the people on the other side of the data wall. This is a sentiment which was reflected by Simon Wright, Sky’s head of data governance, at a recent conference where he considered how the remit of his role is now expanding beyond data management and is beginning to touch on how this can be applied to building customer loyalty and trust.
What we are beginning to see is people quickly becoming the heart of great data-driven marketing, as we as an industry increasingly recognise the value of treating customers as real people, not simply numbers in a database. Sure, there are compliance and competitive issues around striving to be the first to do something different with data, but there is a growing realisation among marketers everywhere that, just because technology can do something with data, it doesn’t mean we necessarily should.
Circling back to Heathrow, as it seeks to become the world’s best airport delivering the very best end-to-end customer experience. It has focused on a mix of foundational, contemporary and innovative technologies, from its Heathrow Rewards loyalty scheme to the mobile app, from iBeacons for passenger wayfinding to Pavegen, a flooring that not only generates electricity from footfall but sends data so the marketer knows where passenger hotspots are. Heathrow is clearly committed to using data and technology to develop customers’ experience, especially within its terminals. It is not alone as more and more brands look at how they can leverage this technology and data-driven insight too.
I believe passionately that this orientation towards the consumer, supported by data and technology, will serve us well as an industry going forward. Surely, as consumers ourselves, we know emails, display ads and snail mail that just keep coming back again and again feel the opposite of customer-centric, especially if they contain nothing of relevance. What brands need to be considering now is not only how much-hyped technology such as data management platforms (DMPs) and programmatic tools will impact the bottom line, but also what the end result for the consumer experience will be.
They must not forget the importance of being able to recognise, understand and engage with their audiences through the connected customer view a modern marketing database provides, which is exactly what Heathrow has done - regardless of what we’re calling it these days. By better connecting data across complementary technologies, brands can better understand and more creatively serve customers a better experience, through more relevant marketing, driving a better ROI in the process.
Despite the explosion in recent years of data management and analytics solutions, the current trend across the industry and growing consumer expectation indicates a shift towards marketing “with and for” the customer, not “to and at” them. Long may it continue!