Database marketers need to move away from concrete, transaction or product-based ROI-driven approaches to one based on broad, customer relationship equity, experts told the recent Canadian National Database Marketing Conference.

Jaya Kumar, senior director of CRM for Kraft Foods North America, led the conference with a keynote speech on data marketing myths. Kumar addressed several of the key cost issues impacting effective CRM database strategies today, including the overwhelming — and surprisingly unworthwhile — cost of pure data. Kumar stressed that model data was often as effective as transaction data, at a fraction of the time and capital expense. Kumar also detailed the high cost of cleaning up a chaotic customer database, and shared experiences from Kraft in juggling the competing priorities of future profits versus short-term ROI.

Rob Shields, vice-president of CRM and chief privacy officer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), echoed these sentiments in his presentation on HBC’s move towards integrating their four brands into a company-wide CRM strategy.

Like Kumar, Shields discussed the importance of moving CRM focus beyond technology and into the human realm, emphasising that the best way to gain a competitive advantage is through building customer relationships. Shields cited HBC’s innovative customer rewards programs – which were recently integrated into one — as examples of value-added ways to exploit customer touchpoints. He also admitted that when Zeller’s Club Z rewards system was introduced 17 years ago it was “”never with the idea that we might want to use the data!””

Shields also discussed the personally targetted approaches by which HBC connects with customers, specifically in strategically challenging situations, such as when a customer may appear to be loyal to a departing brand, or when a new Wal-Mart store may be opening up close to a regular Zeller’s customer.

Using examples from clients such as Altamira, and industry leaders such as Bell Sympatico and HP, Inbox Marketer president Geoff Linton outlined the need to apply classic marketing experience to the process of e-mail campaigns. Linton discussed the importance of pursuing an effective grooming program with a customer base, and looked to the pubilshing industry’s 30 per cent opt-in ratio as an example of the room for growth in the email marketing segment.

“”You might only have 10 per cent of your customers giving [opt-in] permission,”” said Linton, who added, “”I think you can get higher.””

While Linton strayed from the more humanistic undertones of some of the other presentations, the idea of knowing one’s customer remained paramount. Linton’s discussion of contact streams — targeted, tiered e-mail campaigns timed to match the customer’s experience of the life-cycle of a product — echoed Kumar’s underlying message that marketing data must move beyond perceptual equity into an understanding of how consumers truly experience a brand.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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