Loyalty, Social Media & Data

27 Aug,2014


Guest Column/By Mark Spicer


We live in a data-driven world: A world of “3 V’s of data” (volume, velocity, variety). As per IBM estimates, around 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created every day. These large set of unstructured data available through various mediums and channels like social media, mobile devices and myriad of other sources are filed away in massive databases. The trick to navigating through these massive tracts of information is to know how to look for the ‘right data’ which drives an understanding of your customer.


This data explosion has taken many marketers as well as loyalty marketers by surprise. Relationship marketing has always been a very data-centric activity, and for a long time the data that drove loyalty programmes was structured transactional and customer profile data, held in relational databases. Today, progressive loyalty managers are harnessing social media and web data to enhance their understanding of customer behaviour and their sentiment. If an organisation’s highest value customers are referring to them in blogs or on social media sites, then loyalty practitioners have an interest in that data footprint both from a customer service perspective but also from an analytical sense.


The challenge for loyalty marketing is how to incorporate these new data sources into the traditional Single Customer View (SCV) approach to organising and centralising all that is known about each individual member. A true SCV model for the modern day ideally should encompass some, if notall of the new universe of available data and integrate them seamlessly; alongside traditional transactional and profile data, individual-level views of social media sentiment and mobile device engagement should be available, for example. This in turn should be able to drive marketing across traditional direct channels but also through digital and mobile personalisation. This is no small task and in order to deliver on this vision, a number of issues need to be fully understood and addressed:


Scale. The sheer volume of data and the number of different sources is potentially overwhelming. Even within the sphere of social media, different channels (e.g. Facebook vs. Twitter) may require different approaches. Added to this there is web data and mobile data each requiring understanding and a bespoke approach.


Matching. How to match the ‘new’ data sources with the ‘old’ is fundamental. The existing SCV approach requires the capture of a unique reference number, email/physical address or some other identifier. It is unlikely that these will always be present amongst mobile, social media or web data. However, cookies, URL’s, tagging, social media ‘handles’ and other identifiers may provide a solution here.


Technology. What, if any, technology is required to support a ‘New SCV’ proposition. Do existing IT and database platforms provide some or even all of what is required or are there IT solutions in the market that can help support the achievement of objectives? The existing traditional relational database/SQL server based platforms and BI tools of many organisations will not offer sufficient capacity or speed for today’s data volumes. Cloud-based services and tools created to scale exponentially are likely to play some part here.


ROI – Most crucial of all, how do organisations investing in new data ventures make a return on this investment? Actionability is fundamental. Data needs to be delivered to marketers in a commercially-useful form to drive targeted, personalised customer experiences and communications, as well as adding value across other disciplines such as product development.


Mark Spicer is General Manager, ICLP, a customer loyalty consulting firm. He is based in London and Mumbai


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