Monday, April 28, 2008

Are Social Media Metrics the Future?

I’ve long been an admirer of Tesco’s Clubcard CRM program. A student recently brought to my attention an article in British publication Marketing Week that makes a larger and more important point; thanks Alisa.

If you’re not familiar with the story the Tesco Clubcard started well over a decade ago. Under the guidance of the Dunnhumby agency Tesco has expanded its offerings from simple conveniences like paying your utility bills at the store (and later on the website) to a wide product portfolio with heavy emphasis on financial services. In 2006 the Financial Times said Clubcard had over 13 million members in over a dozen countries around the globe. Some have been members for many years—consider the wealth of data Tesco has about them! It uses the data to personalize communications and offers for a huge number of subsegments. The original focus was on their quarterly Clubcard mailing; their website is now an important focus of marketing activities. Much of the information about the early days of the Tesco/Dunnhumbycollaboration has now disappeared off the web into a book, which is well worth reading, even if the Marketing Week article suggests that this is the past of customer data; other approaches are the future.

According to author Alan Mitchell:

Take Google as one example. With Google, individuals volunteer information about what they are interested in buying, and when they are interested in buying it. This provides data that Clubcard can never capture: before-the-event information about what somebody is planning to buy rather than after-the-event information about what they have bought. In marketing terms, that's nirvana - and Google is just the start.
Facebook and MySpace are other examples: individuals building profiles about themselves - personal databases - on a mass scale, to reveal information about their attitudes, preferences, circumstances, lifestyles and interests. No traditional market research or transaction-based database could ever match these personal databases once they reach maturity.

That’s not an entirely new revelation, but he says it better than most. And it’s pretty scary when you stop to consider it. Tesco’s Clubcard is best practices marketing because few, if any, other marketers have been able to emulate the scope of the data they collect or the marketing finesse with which they use it.

If the customer intent data that can be mined from social media is the future of metrics—and there’s a strong argument that it is—then most marketers are far behind the curve in terms of customer data capture and use.

It also suggests an interesting strategic question. If a marketer is behind the CRM data curve, should he try to leapfrog into the area of social media, skipping traditional CRM altogether? I don’t think so. Each is a different kind of data; each has its own uses, even though intent data may eventually turn out to be more powerful. What do you think?
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