Big Data hit the headlines in a front page article in the Sunday Times this weekend that suggested that the Met had agreed to buy mobile phone data, belonging to 27 million customers, from Ipso-Mori, a leading market research company, who in turn had bought the info from mobile phone operator EE. Ipsos-Mori and EE have made it clear that the data in question was aggregated and anonymised, in other words, didn’t contain individual user data, and that it was carried out in compliance with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements. But it’s still scary and sends big brother chills down most of our spines.

Most of us know that there is enough available mobile phone and other data that companies, and certainly governments, can use for a clandestine romp through our personal lives. While this is potentially worrying, my bigger frustration, as both a customer, and a customer service professional, is that so few businesses in the UK use high-value data like this in a positive and profitable way to help customers, and themselves, to develop richer, more personalized relationships.

Most businesses have no shortage of information on their customers, but according to a recent study by Freeform Dynamics, only 15{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} of them feel they fully leverage legacy database information for marketing purposes. Much of the data already stored for analysis is not used, probably because it’s stale and ineffectual, and Bill Inmon, a data warehouse expert, claims that 95{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} of data in a warehouse is “dormant.”

This isn’t really surprising as most companies are missing opportunities to enrich and revitalize the data that they have to improve how they serve us. The unrelenting growth of smartphones and the increase in mobile apps, especially in retail, represents access to a huge and growing vein of rich, dynamic customer data that if mined effectively, can provide real measurable benefits to both the customer, and the business, that knows where to dig.

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in the UK, according to eMarketer, who estimated that smartphone penetration in the UK would stand at 30{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} of the general population by the end of 2012 and by 2015, more than half the population will use a smartphone. In addition, according to eConsultancy, 73{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} of smartphone owners have used their device while out shopping, and consequently can be targeted more effectively and can take immediate advantage of offers. As a result, reward driven, location based marketing programs using geo-location technology as noted in the Sunday Times article, but in a consumer friendly way, without the avalanche of negativity Ipsos-Mori has generated, are showing the way with timely, relevant and valuable offers

I realized how important this was when I recently moved to another part of the country and needed to get up to speed on where the best local deals were for products and services. As a smartphone addict, I had two “mobile” experiences that were totally different and clearly illustrated the gulf between companies that are leveraging this knowledge for the mutual benefit of the customer and them, and those who are digging in the wrong place.

One of the best examples of location based marketing is Priority Moments from Telefonica O2, and, as one of their customers, I get regular, personalized and valuable offers from O2 and their participating merchants. As this is an opt-in program where the customer downloads a mobile app, provides key preference data and legitimately wants to get offers, O2 has a unique opportunity to use the data intelligently in a non-intrusive way that benefits all parties in the deal. By also being able to see what offers I look at, click through to and actually take up, they can continually update the offers and enrich the data they have, and that I want them to have, to make my experience a memorable one.

Contrast this with my experience at B&Q, who have a program called the B&Q Club, which is designed to be a “quick and convenient way to get the latest offers and deals from the B&Q Club.”  Apparently the idea is to reward customers with in-store offers and other prizes which it might do, but frankly, they could do the same thing with a plastic loyalty card and the mobile app is certainly not leveraged effectively. Despite visiting the same store regularly, they’ve not seemed to learn anything about me, nor have tailored any offers that are relevant or timely. Here’s what they could do, that would start to set them apart from other retailers.

  • Link my membership with my on-line account to see what I’m interested in and to use this to “push” relevant offers
  • Monitor my on-line activity,  and, as I often log-out without checking out, as I may want to see the products or check other stores, use this information to offer special deals on the “failed” check-out products, when I’m in the store
  • Use geo-location to greet me when I get to a store and direct me to a certain part of the store to check on a special offer, or to see a demo of a product I’ve previously viewed
  • Connect all the dots of my in-store, mobile and on-line activity to draw a complete and continually updated, picture of my profile

There are multiple benefits to using integrated mobile apps and customer data in your business including:

 Consistently saving customers time and money and, as a mobile, social app, engendering sharing and community promotion

Providing accurate and low cost  data acquisition and can be one of the key pillars of a truly effective Omni/multi-channel solution

Increasing footfall into stores that can stem losses to on-line only businesses, while potentially increasing the average in-store spend with special offers

Correlating loyalty into value, reducing risk of churn and keeping the company top of mind with customers who regularly engage and access offers.


A study from the UK Mobile Media Consumption Report highlights the importance of location-based advertising, with 41{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} of respondents claiming that a mobile ad had helped them find something nearby while 20{ef82a2006d5c8fe58cb7b8be33b0a8b6fa2c5d226e3dba98a6af852ab28f7035} said it had influenced a purchase decision in-store.

Historically CRM data has been used to answer the question; Do you know who your customers are? And while that’s still important, the questions that should be asked are; Do you know where they are? And are you willing and able to meet them there?

If you’re not, someone is!