Profile: Jeremy Gilley

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UK operators court brands with 'big data' insights

The UK’s largest operators EE and O2 aim to offer brands insights into consumer behaviour patterns by mining their networks for real-time analytics as the pair bid to off-set the decline in their traditional revenues such as voice and text tariffs.

EE Brand Video

EE, a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and FT Orange, aims to capitalise on its customers’ shift towards mobile data usage to enhance the depth of consumer insight it can offer, as its is rival O2’s owner Telefonica.

Both operators, which represent nearly 50 million UK mobile users combined, are attempting to monetise their network data logs, in a trend known as using ‘big data,’ which involves operators mining consumer activity on their networks such as users’ web browsing habits and location data, including customer calling patterns.

This data is then anonymised, aggregated and compiled to offer consumer insights to third party brands such as the behaviour of large crowds travelling to sporting events and their browsing habits along the journey. It can also potentially provide insights such as the browsing trends of mobile users in certain locations, such as high street areas, during peak shopping times.

EE’s recently formed mData unit is currently briefing brands and agencies on consumer insights it can offer on an individual basis and via trade bodies and is understood to have developed case studies with certain brands since it was formed last year. Although Marketing Week was unable to verify which exact brands it has worked with by time of publication.

However, Marketing Week understands that EE’s mData unit will aim to offer brands real-time analytics and that this will eventually be able to offer further insights, such as dual-screening, enabling brands to tailor their campaigns during peak TV viewing hours in real-time.

EE was unable to provide comment on its ambitions for its mData unit by time of publication when requested Marketing Week however representatives of the team are scheduled to present how it intends to work with brands and agencies at an IAB event scheduled for next week (January 29).

Meanwhile, O2’s parent company is working with a number of, as yet unnamed, UK retailers to trial its recently launched its Smart Steps product, essentially an intelligent footfall counter, via its Telefonica Dynamics Insights team which also debuted in the UK late last year.

A Telefonica spokesman told Marketing Week that Smart Steps tracks O2 customers’ footfall, analyses trends within this data and can then further uses and algorithm to establish how this behavioural trend translates to the wider population.

This data can be further contextualised by retailers by using it to see how far consumers are prepared to travel to their outlets and where their catchment areas lie according to the Telefonica spokesperson adding that it was working with research firm GfK to improve its insights (see video below).

Telefonica’s UK arm O2 has already begun using Telefonica Dynamics Insights’ data to address the effectiveness of its own marketing activities, EE was unable to provide feedback on whether it has also done likewise, but both operators intend to step-up their respective ‘big data’ pushes in 2013.

Source: YouTube

Readers' comments (5)

  • Wonder if this going to backfire on them - it's nothing more than spying on your customers without consent. Even if anonymised it still means you have accessed customers' private information, and if the sample of data is small say a small event or town then individuals could be identified.

    This is not like Facebook where users are the product and they accept that - this a product being sold where a customer really is the customer and not the product!

    Are marketers that bad at their job that they can't get an insight into customer behaviour or able to design services/products without these spying techniques?

    Perhaps a unique selling point for a smaller phone company would be the anti-pattern of offering a service that doesn't spy on its customers - Where do I sign up!

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  • The use of anonymised data is completely legitimate. I write not as someone who does not work in the telecoms industry. You can be sure they have checked out the legality of what they propose with the Info Comms Ofice beforehand. It is no different from Market Research data that is averaged etc.

    Whether it represents the thin end of the wedge is another thing. It is up to concerned individuals like us to keep an eye out for developments that will acftually invade our privacy and protest accordingly,

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  • Data remains a tricky subject. On the one hand, the natural reaction amongst these pages is to applaud brands for putting customer insight and 'big data' to an intelligent and profitable use. It's savvy, clever and forward thinking.

    However, the consumer demand for a more fair and transparent return in the data exchange process means it needs to be a two-way street; in its simplest terms a reciprocal transaction where a customer becomes engaged with the brand, and in return is rewarded through some form of value. How are customers going to feel if, instead of experiencing the warm glow of a mutual value exchange, brands such as EE are selling their data for their own gain?

    Yes, in the long-run, it should theoretically benefit the consumer as other brands put the insights and analytics to work. But in an age where privacy is such a delicate subject, is it really wise to short-change your customers by casting aside the value exchange system that is mandatory in today's marketing landscape? Your customers will ultimately give you the answer to that question!

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  • Operators "spying" techniques is no different to the anonymous monitoring of all credit card transactions, monitoring of TV via digital channels, the continous monitoring of every single movement of your mouse while you view web pages online or the monitoring of every single App you ever download or use.
    In the digital word - data is everywhere and is used by every single succesfull business.
    The amount of digital monitoring taking place when you use the internet is astounding and awareness is very low except for the likes of Google and Facebook.
    The new cookie law has had no effect as cookies are still as prevelant.
    Data collection is everywhere and there is no escape.
    The challenge in this current market is for operators to guarantee protection and security to its consumers.

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  • Everything has a value, as these companies are proving. The alternative is that they increase the cost of their lagging core services - which would just increase the speed of its decay!

    What the comments seem to show is that there is a demand for a non data mined ISP service, but I doubt it translates to a profitable venture - but I would love to be proved wrong! ;)

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