BRC Customer Insight Conference – London

BRC Customer Insight

Today I attended the BRC Consumer Insight Conference in London as was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the event and the speakers. Here are a few notes I jotted down during the day.

Peter Williams, former CEO of Selfridges and board member of ASOS.COM – highlighted some of the fundamental changes in retail, including a long-term move to a smaller retail footprint with lots of consequences for malls, high streets, and especially secondary locations.

Rory Sutherland and John Kearon presented overlapping presentations that highlighted the shift in marketing away from the rational to the emotional. At one level this was refreshing, with its emphasis on behavioural economics and psychology, on the other hand it flies in the face of the trend towards the metrics of clicks, likes, and shares. Rory and John also had a few unkind words for economics and market research – a topic I will come back to in another post.

Ruth Spencer from Boots, Mike Coshott from B&Q, Caroline Pollard from Debenhams, Alex Chruszcz from ASDA, and Robin Phillips from Waitrose all spoke to different elements of using technology and systems to understand the customer. At the heart of the conversation was a core tension between:

  1. Wanting to build a single view of the customer, for example tying different data streams together.
  2. That each shopper is not a single homogeneous, person, the shopper when they are looking to buy a pair of tights in Boots after laddering theirs is different from a shopper spending time to explore new cosmetics options.

One theme that emerged from the day was that power is shifting from retailers to shoppers, with mobile, shopping apps, compare sites all assisting that change.

One interesting part of the day was hearing about some of the mobile campaigns and activities delivered via WEVE. WEVE is jointly owned by EE, Orange, and Vodafone and therefore has unparalleled access to UK mobile phone owners. David Sear, for example, talked about a WEVE campaign for Heineken which triggered a marketing message at 27C, which happened one morning at 9:45am due to the weather – it is all a learning process. Another target group for WEVE were for people who were at Heathrow at one moment in time and in Scotland about an hour later.

Rueben Arnold of Virgin Atlantic and Paul de Last from John Lewis finished the day with cases studies looking at how they were using insight to drive customer experience.

This was billed as the first annual BRC customer insight conference, which I thought sounded a little twee. But actually, this was one of the better events I have attended over the last 12 months. It brought together a good selection of client-side people talking about what they were doing, what had worked, and bit about what had not worked. The invited outsiders did a good job of creating a broader canvass. So, I certainly hope there will be another event next year.

Key points made during the day included:

  • Don’t pick a technology because it is interesting, pick it if it answers an identifiable and worthwhile business need.
  • New suppliers need to establish proof of concept.
  • Organisations that want to use a single view of the customer have to get rid of silos, and merge online with offline.
  • The mobile revolution has only just started, it is going to shape loyalty, tracking, offers, marketing, and shopping – and iBeacon looks like an interesting part of that picture.
  • Insight is when you hear what the customer says and use that as a clue to what the customer wants, insight is not simply reporting what the customer says.