Can marketeers ignore AI and thrive?

“Artificial intelligence is that activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”

Without wanting in any way to dismiss AI, which can be incredibly useful in many different arenas like driverless cars, we believe that its role for marketers has been exaggerated. Indeed most of what we need is barely within the spectrum of technology normally defined as AI.

For most cases where marketers want to execute one to one personalisation, the area where AI could most appropriately be applied, the conventional propensity model is all that is required.

What is most often meant by personalisation is the means to carry out selections of customers for communications based on their expected response or their particular needs.

Here are some examples where personalisation is often used:

– Targeting apparently dormant customers (e.g. those who in fact have a high probability of being reactivated) with offers to reactivate them
– Making a relevant offer (e.g. based on customer characteristics that imply a higher than average probability of purchasing in a particular product category) of a specific item
– Responding to risk (e.g. predicting which customers are likely to cancel policies or stop ordering) so that they can be presented with good reasons not to abandon their policy or purchase

In each case a conventional predictive model can be built, using an historic set of customer data, where a target customer population can be distinguished from the remainder who have not evidenced reactivation, response, or reduced risk of lapsing.

The key point is that we are not asking for this kind of model to be adaptive to rapidly changing circumstances; instead it relies on past customer behaviour to inform what is likely to happen in the present or near future. And this is because human behaviour in most situations where we are reacting to propositions put to us by marketers tends to remain reasonably constant.

We have even tested propensity models on historic data going back four years and found them to work well.

However, to build and apply these conventional propensity models there are some essential requirements:

– a single customer view to provide the greatest possible depth of customer data
– the ability to update model scores each time new data about an individual arrives
– the availability of data scientists armed with tools like R, SPSS, or SAS

A typical predictive model will take the form of an algorithm which will attribute a probability score to each member of a customer base; we judge the success of these models by the extent to which these scores are differentiated from random in the way they can be used to predict customers’ behaviour.

Looking at a recent model we built for the reactivation of dormant customers, the top customer decile had an index of 330,compared to the bottom decile’s 17.

In another case, a model for product category preference had a top decile index of 601 and bottom decile index of 11.

For most of us marketers these results will be seen as providing a huge improvement on random and quite fit for purpose. However, the methodology used does not in our opinion qualify the models to be correctly described as AI.

If you would like to talk to us about developing propensity models for you, or providing the technology for a single customer view, then please do email us back


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


UKFast for UniFida’s technology gets PAS2060 certification

Our cloud hosting company for UniFida’s technology gets PAS 2060 certification

We were delighted to learn that UKFast who host our customer data platform technology have been awarded PAS 2060 by the Carbon Trust.

PAS 2060 is the internationally recognised specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality and builds on the existing PAS 2050 environmental standard.

Data centres, which are necessary for housing servers and providing hosting and co-location services, use a large amount of energy and emit tonnes of CO2 every year. In fact, data centres worldwide are expected to generate 533 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020 (Carbon Trust).

UKFast offsets will contribute to a number of hydro-power renewable energy schemes which reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing power from fossil fuel sources on their regional electric grid.


Carbon Trust Certification is the world’s leading independent certification body for carbon footprints.

 


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Is our day of reckoning coming soon?

No, you will be relieved to learn that this newsletter is not about climate change, but rather about how we marketers buy our media and measure its performance. Not so serious, but nevertheless extremely important.

At a recent conference organised in London by the Institute of Fundraising we asked an audience of around 70 people, all of whom work for charities, whether any had developed a reliable view of how different aspects of their marketing spend impacted their donations. Not a single person present was able to say yes.

In the distant past, before the internet had been invented, and when mail was the only direct channel, it was a whole sight simpler; all you needed to do was to create control groups that you didn’t mail, and then measure how they performed compared to those that you did.

In today’s multi-channel world, it’s a problem of very much greater complexity.

Our concern is that, because of the number of different channels and influences that can precede a customer action, like making an order, marketeers may have to a large extent given up.

But to do nothing leaves us with a £26bn per annum unanswered question just for the UK alone.

Clearly there are in fact two very different questions to answer; first how to infer the effect of non-direct media like outdoor advertising and most of TV, and second how to measure the effect of those channels that are direct like Google PPC, direct mail or Facebook?

Most practitioners who want to measure non-direct channels use some kind of time series modelling, and this works reasonably well when we are just looking at summarised data, such as the overall sales value of an organisation in January.

But there are big limitations in that it’s relatively expensive to develop the models, they cannot get into the detail of campaign performance rather than looking at aggregated channels, and they rely on the advertiser varying the amount of spend each month in each channel.

When looking at the outcome from a time series model there is also always a large proportion of sales whose cause cannot be explained by the model, and this has to be assumed as being due to the influence of the brand.

However, where marketeers appear to have thrown in the towel unnecessarily, is in respect of measuring the effect of direct media, looking at online and offline channels in combination.

We don’t believe that any organisation selling goods or services to identified individuals, such as home shopping companies or travel or financial services to name but three, has to give up on measuring the impact of their direct channels.

But to do this measurement one needs to work back from each order, rather than forward from the spend in each channels, to unravel what is actually going on in the real world.

We approach this by looking at all the known interactions between an organisation and a customer in a 90-day window before an order is received.

We ignore all clicks, opens, opportunities to view etc. etc. indeed anything that cannot be directly related to an actual order event, and treat these just as noise.

What then comes to the surface is much more complex that any last click proponent would like to admit; we find ourselves looking at a unified view in which emails, PPC, social, natural search, mobile SMS, direct mail, OBTM and any other direct channel employed can each play their part.

This table is a real example of just five individual orders received by a home shopping company, and counts the times each different channel played a role in the 90 days before the order:

Customer type Catalogues received emails received Google PPC Direct entry Phone in Total
Existing 2 3 1 1 7
Existing 2 1 3
Existing 8 2 10
New 3 3
New 3 13 1 17

Even in this relatively simple example the first thing that become apparent is the wide diversity of the routes taken by customers before they actually placed their order.

The good news though is that once you have joined the online and offline data together, and considered the weighting to give to different channels, and to different time intervals prior to an order being received, you have here the solid building blocks for attributing actual value to the channels being deployed.

You can then allocate the value of each order across the channels that influenced it, and end up with an overall value contributed by each channel in a particular time period.

We are not suggesting that this is rocket science, but it does need attention, and technology, to make it happen.

We have built the technology to automate this kind of attribution, and would be interested to discuss it with you if you felt it could help.

Please CLICK here for a short PowerPoint explaining in a little more detail how we do it.

 


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Why your own first party data is so important?

There are many reasons why this is the case, but your recognition of it may be at risk of being drowned out by the clamour of people selling recruitment media, particularly digital and programmatic media.

To us the case for first making best use of your own customer data trumps all other media purchase decisions, and for very good reasons:

– it’s free and uncontrovertibly yours (as long as it’s properly permissioned)
– it allows you to develop very personalised relationships with each of your customers, and hence unlock as much value as is possible from them
– it can help you understand what is really driving your new customer recruitment, particularly when multiple online and offline channels play a part in your recruitment marketing
– it can support your overall business planning based on understanding the longer-term value provided by each customer segment

To allow you to obtain that customer value you need to ensure that your single customer view contains all your customers’ online and offline behaviours, linked by all the available personal identifiers.

You also need marketing technology that joins all this together, so that there is one complete version of the truth about each customer that can be used by all your marketing applications.

This is why we suggest you need to consider installing a customer data platform or CDP.

To help develop an understanding of what a CDP can do for your marketing we have written ‘The Marketers Customer Data Platform Resource Book’; and this is now available free as an e-book.

David Raab, Founder of the Customer Data Platform Institute, wrote of it ’This concise introduction provides clear answers to CDP questions. It will help many marketers and their technologists take the next step in their CDP journey’.

If you are thinking about possibly taking the next step, then please download your free copy of our booklet “The Marketers Customer Data Resource Book“.

 


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Do you prefer working in a kitchen, or sitting in a restaurant?

As a marketer, do you prefer working in a kitchen, or sitting in a restaurant?

We have noticed that the way marketers operate is changing, and the trend is firmly towards working in the the kitchen!

Looking back a decade and more, agencies liked to own most marketing functions, and that went way beyond strategy, planning and creative; they liked to manage the production as well. This would mean that they would buy media, manufacture direct mail, and even take control of data. The full lavish restaurant experience.

Marketeers have gradually woken up to the fact that eating in restaurants is both very expensive, and puts control in the hands of someone else. If campaigns flop, they have to switch agencies, and this means listening to the whole nine yards of pitches and flummery.

Now that we are firmly in the data age, we find that marketeers like to get down among the weeds, and understand what is really going on. This way they can own that precious commodity, a true understanding of the customers on whom their fortunes rely.

That does not mean that there is no role for agencies, rather that, in addition to creative work, they are increasingly providing the technology environment in which the marketers can do their own cooking.

Nor does it mean that marketers have to start learning how to write their own code; instead they want a ready-made technology environment in which they can take control of understanding customer behaviour, and make sure that they are delivering, as far as possible, the right personalised experience to each individual customer.

At UniFida we are very aware of this trend, and have chosen to go down the route of delivering the technology (kitchens) in which marketers can operate.

In practical terms this means providing a cloud-based environment in which all online and offline sources of customer data are tied together, identities are resolved, marketing metrics are provided, and personalised campaigns can be planned and executed.

We don’t expect to tell marketers what they should do; rather we like to provide the most refined possible tools to help them do it themselves.

Our toolkit is a combination of UniFida Technology and UniFida Data Science. It’s reasonably priced, fully serviced, and the result of five years of continual development.

We hope that it’s what you will want to enable you to cook things up that your customers will really appreciate in 2020!

 


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Why we chose Matomo over Google as our web analytics platform for UniFida

In some respects, Matomo and Google Analytics are very similar:

  • both have very large user bases (Wikipedia tells us that Matomo is installed on approaching 1.5m websites, and Google Analytics is used on 66% of the world’s most ‘popular’)
  • and both have very impressive analytical functionality and dashboards, with hundreds of alternative views into the data

However, there are important reasons why, when looking for the right web analytics platform to link our clients’ websites with our customer data platform UniFida, we chose Matomo:

  • Matomo gives our clients full ownership of the data it collects and stores. So, we can download from Matomo as much of our clients’ browsing data as they want. In reality we let Matomo do most of the storing, and we only download and keep the data that we can match to known customers.
  • The data provided is not sampled as it is in Google Analytics (unless you buy the GA 360 Premium version). This means that the view you get of what is happening on your website is not biased by the way the sample is selected.
  • There is a retention period of 24 months for the data that Matomo collects. This means that when a browser converts into being a recognisable customer, we can at that point download all their historic browsing activity for 24 months back.
  • Matomo has a GDPR manager to ensure that your website is fully compliant with the regulations.
  • We receive quick and detailed email support for any problems we hit.

And the extraordinary truth is that instead of paying $150,000 a year per client for GA 360 Premium you will pay a very much smaller amount, just based on the number of page views on your website; for instance, for up to 1m page views per month you will pay around $500 for Matomo.

Indeed, the combined cost of UniFida and Matomo for a customer data platform of up to 1m customers will come to around just one third of the cost of just buying GA 360 Premium.

Using Matomo we are now combining the browsing data collected via Matomo, with clients’ offline data, to provide our clients with a cross channel analysis of what is really driving their orders, not just on what they clicked on last. And we are also using it to help us understand how actively individual customers are browsing, and what their specific interests are.

If you would like to discuss further, then please email info@unifida.co.uk to let us know when would be a convenient time to call you.


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Nine stepping stones for a customer data pilgrim!

Wondering how to become a customer data expert?

For many, the journey from being a basic user of customer data, for example just providing lists for campaigns, to being a fully customer orientated organisation, is perceived as being full of risks, and traps for the unwary. As a result, the journey is often halted before it is even started.

However, you are not in uncharted territory, and by following some clearly defined steps you should arrive at your destination without too many damaging hiccups.

But before you start, you must regard it as a journey where you don’t know clearly what the destination will look like, and you cannot map out in advance with any certainty all the different ways that making good use of your customer data asset will benefit your organisation.

  1. First off you will almost certainly be asked to justify the cost. Because the benefits of using a customer data platform can come from many different areas of the business you will need to bring together multiple use cases – they can range from making existing activities such as email campaigns more effective through personalisation, to understanding how much you can afford to spend on recruitment because you know the longer term value of different types of customer. Knowing how each area of the business works now, you can estimate the percentage gains from improving effectiveness or introducing efficiencies. At this stage they have to be estimates, but you can get colleagues to help you provide well-judged ones.
  2. Next, focus on building a robust first party data platform, that includes both online and offline customer activities. Don’t leave out online browsing data, customer contact history, or email opens and clicks. The platform needs to be updated very regularly and be open to integration with other systems such as email service providers. There is a lot of detail to be covered in this stage such as the customer data schema, and GDPR requirements, but always err on the side of including all available granular customer data as long as it is structured and can be linked through personal identifiers to the customer record.
  3. As part of developing the first party data asset you will want to manipulate some of the raw data material into something more usable. We suggest developing a few key customer variables that are derived from your data inputs. For instance, customer lifetime value, and customer recency, frequency and monetary value can be of enormous use when planning recruitment or making selections for campaigns. You won’t need more than a handful of these derived variables at the start, so focus on those that will make your customer marketing activities work better.
  4. Jump in and start testing new ways of undertaking your marketing. It might be that you start by testing the impact of segmenting your customer base, and giving different parts different treatments, or you could decide to reactivate some of your dormant customers with a carefully designed special offer specially targeted at those most likely to be reactivated. Whatever you do, focus on building a control group to shadow every test, so that you can properly evaluate how much uplift you have managed to achieve. And for every test carefully record what offer was made with what graphics, and how the target audience was selected.
  5. Never stop testing. Even in a mature state you should expect to spend at least 15% of your marketing budget on tests. You will never run out of things you want to try out. If you test too little you will quickly run out of routes to move forward. And tests should take risks; we heard recently that 3D postal packages outperform flat ones – how strange is that?
  6. Start using your customer data asset for longer term business planning. When you understand the cost of customer recruitment, the value per customer, and their rate of attrition you can start to build a business development plan based around real customer numbers. So to increase turnover by £X next year, you will have actual customer numbers to recruit, and you will know how much that will cost, and over what timescale the value comes back.
  7. Keep on investing in customer analytics. You may want to be able to project forward from a first order to predicting how much a customer is going to buy, and from this how much you want to spend on him. Equally if you have several competing brands, or different product categories, you may need to be able to predict which offer is likely to get the most valuable response from each customer. Customer analytics and marketing tests go hand in hand, and if you give up on either you may find yourself moving backwards.
  8. Keep your sponsors engaged and behind you! They will need to see the big picture as you move forward, explained in relatively simple terms. Each quarter you will have spent £X, and got £Y back in terms of enhanced customer value. Sometimes £Y will be less than £X because you have been investing heavily. Don’t let this put you off; as long as you can explain clearly how that investment will pay back over time your sponsors will remain on-board.
  9. And finally ensure sustainability. This means building a team that can survive without any one of its members, including yourself. It also means recording everything you do, the messaging, the images, the way campaigns were structured, the selection tools you used, the routes you chose for order fulfillment etc. etc. All too often good people leave an organisation with little recorded evidence of what they have done, and thus create a knowledge chasm that can take many months to fill.

If you want to be a customer data pilgrim, and are looking for support, we are here to help. We can help you develop your business case, build a customer data platform, undertake customer analytics, and evaluate results.

We can also offer you a free copy of ‘The Marketers Customer Data Platform Resource Book’ which we published recently to help people starting out on the customer data journey.  Simply sign up for our mailing list and we’ll send you a link to download the Resource Book.

Are you losing customers to your competition?

Are you leaving the competition an open door through which they can capture your best customers?


Most organisations will protest that they are not, and a sizeable proportion of these will be wrong!

The reason is the gap that often exists between how customers expect that they should be treated, and the reality of what actually happens.

Let us give you some examples:

  • We know of one company that sends its entire customer file an identical email a hundred times a year
  • and a second that takes at least a month between recruiting a new customer and sending them a welcome catalogue
  • a third that gives up on customers who have not been active in the last two years
  • a fourth that can’t distinguish between a currently dormant but previously valuable customer who is browsing on their website, and an unknown punter
  • and a fifth who doesn’t understand the longer-term value provided by customers from different recruitment channels

To start to put things right we usually find that all areas of the organisation that have responsibility for some aspect or another of looking after customers need to put their hands up, and agree that things are not going as well as they might.

At this point, with luck, a consensus will start to emerge that something needs to be done to fix the problem; this will usually involve introducing some kind of technology that takes an holistic view of customers and how they are interacting with you.

If you feel the need to mobilise your organisation in this direction, and make it properly customer centric, then we are here to help.

For a start we can offer you a free copy of our short and readable book ‘The Marketers Customer Data Platform Resource Book’; to be sent this we just need you to email us back with your postal address. Alternatively, simply sign up for our mailing list and we’ll send you the download link.

And we would welcome the opportunity to have a chat; just give us a call on 0203 960 6472 and ask for Julian Berry. He is here to help.


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


Why most ‘CRM’ systems are not really what they claim to be!


On the surface CRM systems give the appearance of covering most things you might need when you are looking for technology to help you manage relationships with customers.

But the reality is that they have been designed to only deliver the basics.

Yes, they manage what they call ‘contacts’ but these are usually only matched together using email addresses. The much bigger and key role of identity resolution is left unresolved.

Customers in fact have many different identifiers like mobile phone numbers, cookie IDs, postal addresses, account numbers etc and there are usually multiple versions of each relating to a single customer. All versions of these personal identifiers need to be stored so that customers reaching you through multiple channels can be properly identified.

Next CRM systems only include a part of your customer data. Your customers browse your website, they visit specific pages, they arrive there via different forms of on-line advertising, and all this vital information needs to be included in your single customer view.

CRM systems may report sales at a company or salesman level but they don’t look at longer term customer value, or how different channels and different customer recruitment propositions bring different types of customers with different kinds of customer needs.

CRM systems may undertake bulk email campaigns, but these are not usually synchronised with other channels such as post or SMS; also given that they don’t generate any added value customer knowledge such as probability of response or likelihood of attrition, the selections they make can only be via quite simplistic filters.

CRM systems were born out of the need to enable sales forces to record their activities and results; they were not designed to ingest data from multiple online and offline sources, and deliver a complete customer view.

Over the last five years or so a new breed of technology, Customer Data Platforms or CDPs, have been developed to allow you to properly relate to customers, and to make all aspects of your marketing accountable so that for instance an online order can now be linked back to the several online and offline contacts that preceded it.

If you would like to find out why you might need a CDP as well as a CRM, please see our presentation:


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


What’s indispensable for your marketing data ecosystem?

What should be the ‘condicio sine qua non’ of all marketing data ecosystems?


The answer is very obvious, but very often overlooked; a marketing data hub or customer data platform that joins together all the front end and back end data.

Underpinning virtually all the multitude of martech applications there is the ever-present need for a solid data hub into which, and off which, they can all feed.

For instance, take website personalisation; it clearly doesn’t make sense to focus the nature and content of a tailored customer experience based just on their recent browsing, when you could also know if that individual was a loyal and steady customer or someone who was only cruising for sale offers.

Or how can you respond to a subject access request under GDPR if your email service provider and order processing system are not in some way linked around individual customer identities.

So what are the key elements in a customer data hub?

  • A means of joining together every data item that relates to an individual using all possible match-keys from cookie IDs to postal addresses
  • Persistent ingestion and storage from all on-line and off-line sources of every item of data from individual transactions to inbound or outbound contacts without summarisation or concatenation
  • Accessibility to other systems both for ingestion and exportation of data that is relevant for that application

There is also the critical organisational element; the data hub is far more likely to be successful, and to provide value, if it is owned and manged by marketeers who get the reason for having it.

This doesn’t mean that the development of a data hub is simple and not needing to be built in collaboration with IT experts. Data is also often untidy or in need of modification like miss-spelt addresses.

There is also a plethora of potential data sources to be fed into the hub, such as:

  • Order processing systems (e.g. for order read donation for charities, and policies for insurers)
  • Website browsers
  • Call center contacts
  • Email service providers
  • Third party data sources like lifestyle overlays or prospect lists
  • Identity resolution tables such as gone-aways
  • Loyalty card applications
  • Appointment booking systems

to name but a few we have encountered.

And then the hub once fed has to drive an ever-growing array of marketing tools. At a very high level these tools either support insights or actions. Typical examples include:

  • Dashboards and data visualisation
  • Digital personalisation
  • Email service providers
  • Campaign selections and response analysis
  • Contact centres
  • DMPs for digital media targetingCustomer research

Our view is that marketeers who plan their technology eco-systems without first planning a customer data hub are giving themselves an ever-growing problem. On the other hand, get the data hub right, and there is no limit to what can grow out of it.


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.