Path to power
I started my career as a graduate at CACI where I became the company’s youngest-ever vice-president in charge of marketing. It was at CACI that I met my husband, Clive Humby, and in 1989, after we both left the company, we founded dunnhumby from our kitchen table.
In 1994, Tesco approached us about its plans for a loyalty card. The result was Clubcard, which we helped Tesco to develop through our analysis of its customer data - today it has nearly 17 million users across the world. By the time we stepped back from dunnhumby in 2011, it had grown into an organisation of 1,500 people, reaching 350 million customers in 25 countries across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
I am now exploring the future of customer audience engagement in a range of sectors. In 2014, I became CEO of fan science company Starcount and director at Purple Seven, the UK’s leading theatre analytics and targeting company.
I am also passionate about encouraging more young women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. I am proud to be chair of Your Life, a business-led initiative to encourage more young people to study science and maths at A-level. I have also founded the What I See project, which seeks to inspire young women with the confidence to pursue successful careers, through the medium of filmed interviews. We are currently also putting together a book of inspiring women to show the diverse opportunities that there are for young girls today.
What has been your data highlight of 2015?
We have now created a self-service on-line platform that allows brands and agencies to understand 1.7 billion consumers across any country and how consumers’ interests and demographics trend and change daily. This will transform market research and focus group capability over the next few years because of the instantly available, massive read of behaviour.
So - why data?
I was inspired by Charles Booth’s pioneering work in documenting working class life in London in the 1890s. This was an early forerunner of the Census - and it was Census work where my career in data began.
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
Being exposed to the diverse range of companies and sectors that are increasingly engaging with data. From fashion and healthcare to marketing and theatre, so many industries - including the arts - are becoming reliant on data analysis and underpinned by science and maths skills.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
I would dispel the myth that data is all about spreadsheets and number crunching, and that men are inherently better suited to working with data. Not enough people realise that being fluent in the language of data unlocks a wealth of career opportunities and we need more young people - especially women - to consider a career in maths or science.
Share something you have learned that could benefit your peer group
Always surround yourself with people that are smarter than you - that way, you will always keep learning .
And what was the toughest lesson?
When we won the project to deliver Tesco Clubcard back in 1995, we quoted a cost of £250,000 and 10 weeks to deliver. We found out years later that the next feasible bid was £50 million and three years. I think we under-pitched.
What’s in your data toolbox?
Our unique datasets at both Starcount and Purple Seven are certainly one of our strongest resources. Purple Seven has analysed 37 million ticket sales from 5.6 million ticket buyers across 110 venues, which has provided us with insights into over 70 per cent of the UK theatre industry’s operations. At Starcount, we explore the behaviours of 1.7 billion people engaging with 125,000 influencers across the world’s 12 biggest social media networks. Of course, none of this analysis would be possible without the hugely-talented people we work with and the technology that helps us garner key insights and analysis.
What’s on your wish list?
My work started with “you are where you live,” which spawned the site location industry back in the 1980s. I would love to show that having played our part in transforming the retail and CPG sector (globally) with “you are what you eat” in the 1990s, we are now going to make a further, significant and lasting impact with “you are who you follow” (using social media data).
Who do you turn to?
I am privileged to have a partner in Clive who shares my (business) passions and beliefs.
After Clive and I first presented our initial Clubcard trial findings to the Tesco board, then-chairman Lord MacLaurin quipped that we knew more about his customers after three months than he did after 30 years. We knew then that we were working on something truly special.
The biggest retailer in the USA, Kroger, has now enjoyed 45 quarters of growth since dunnhumby delivered and embedded customer first throughout the organisation. Each 1 per cent market share growth is worth about $1 billion in incremental value!