How the data industry will emerge from the Covid crisis

covid-19 2During any crisis, some businesses fail, and some thrive. The outcome generally is that those who thrive, do so in a leaner and more focused way than they had been previously.

For instance, back in April last year, one of our agency partners UK Changes sadly went into administration; not ideal at a time when it was hard to see what the next few months were going to be like. However, our ongoing conversations with the administrators allowed us to be able to make a successful offer to buy the assets of the business and now, over a year later, we are grateful for the opportunity.

The technology and staff that we have added to our company have helped us to not just weather the storm of the last 18 months but also to add new clients, offer new services to our existing clients, and hopefully set ourselves up for growth over the next few years.

For some time, there has been a challenge in the data sector revolving around the use of data both in and from the digital ecosystem. Many organisations have tried to present themselves as digital data specialists and found it hard to then work out how to monetise this opportunity. That is not to say that there isn’t money to be made, as some have been very successful, but there has also been an element of baby and bath water.

An area that has thrived during lockdown is good old direct mail. And those companies who still had data that could be used for contact via mail have found themselves doing well as a result. For the first time in a very long time, mail volumes are up. More importantly response rates and ROI are also up and, in many cases, delivering high volumes of new customers, or new sales, from a channel that was dead.

I don’t see this trend of increased mail volumes lasting forever, but I do see mail now being considered more as part of a multi-channel mix across several sectors. Maybe this is the injection that the true multi-channel marketing world we always dreamed of needed?

Another thing that the Covid crisis has taught us is that while there clearly is a need to evolve and grow into the digital space, sometimes getting the basics right is as important. For years we have been talking about the need to make sure that data is clean and up to date and that customer contact data is current and usable: in 2018, this became law through GDPR. And yet many companies decided it wasn’t needed.

Suddenly, as companies needed to contact people at home or to ensure deliveries made it to the right person, it was essential to know which customers were still active, or even alive. So, data cleaning has become more popular again and I believe that this is a trend that will continue as more brands become direct to consumer and try to cut out the middle retailer.

Finally, another trend that Covid has accelerated that the data industry can play a large part in is localism. At the same time as a large increase in brands developing D2C offerings, there has also been a rise in consumers feeling proud of and supporting their local high street and local companies. Clearly local data is something that has been around for a long time but hasn’t always been utilised. It is also an area that can be used both online, via locally targeted Facebook ads for example, and offline. We are seeing a rise in the creation and use of local statistics and we expect this to continue.

Scott-Logie nOverall, any crisis tends to see the use of data and targeting increase as organisations tighten their belts, ensure they are using their budgets wisely and increase measurement to ratify this. We saw this after the 2008 banking crash, and I am sure we will see it again.

Scott Logie is customer engagement director at REaD Group

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