At the recent Reply / Visa Spring Forum, competitors from a cross-section of industries, from future-focused retailers such as Sainsbury's to new-age payments players like Bud and Yoyo, shared their insights on how they use data and personalisation to create better value and experiences for their customers.
One strategy employed by retailers today is to build superior customer insight, and hence personalisation potential, by expanding the range of products and services offered under one roof. Many supermarkets, for example, are no longer just grocers who sell oranges and apples. They are now complex, multi-dimensional businesses that offer banking, telephony and even funeral services.
Harnessing data that is captured across this wide range of activity enables these multi-faceted businesses to better personalise their offers to their customers. For example, one large grocery chain used their customer data to provide a better banking experience. They linked their grocery tills with a bank teller, allowing customers to round up their shopping bills to the nearest pound and deposit the remainder into a savings account.
Moreover, the retailer went on to provide offers based on customers’ buying preferences, and save money on weekly basket of goods, keeping in mind the customers' long-term savings goals. They even offered money-saving alternatives when they recognised, through behavioural data captured across multiple activities the customer undertook with this firm, that the customer was stretched for money.
Our speakers also outlined an alternative, fundamentally different approach to leveraging customer data. There are a set of competitors out there that aim to personalise offers (to individuals and families) by using data that customers are willing to share more widely. The most obvious example of this is the financial data that is being made available through the Open Banking regulations; and there will be more. These firms often collect little data of their own, and instead aggregate customer data collected by other merchants to make personalised offers and propositions. This is a fundamentally different approach to the first set of competitors who are gathering and acting on data they collect and analyse from their own customers through a variety of activities from food shopping to banking.
One fintech firm that serves multiple parts of a customer's life is taking personalisation to the next level. They are now searching data pools to provide a bill-switching service, by recognising if customers are spending above average for utilities. Additionally, their app is also used as a credit reference for renters who are interested in becoming home buyers; and to landlords who need a check on the payment history of a new tenant. In the future, the company will with permission make use of individuals' data to keep track of pensions, regardless of where they reside - especially useful in an area where job switching is the norm. This will make it much easier for customers to keep track of their money, and to identify when it makes economic sense to aggregate pots of money into one large pension plan.
The jury remains out as to whether customers will ultimately opt for the benefits of ever-broader in-house closed systems, or those of open platforms making use of wide swathes of customer data across competitors. Tools and institutions to build trust will surely be central to whatever solutions emerge strongest; which in turn suggests that regulators and public bodies may play a more prominent role in future. Whether retailers, banks, and other commercial competitors will view that as a welcome development remains to be seen...
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