The Big Picture on Data

by Jessica Ramesh

Chris Boddice, CRM and Digital Marketing at ODEON will be among the speakers at the Figaro Digital Marketing Conference on 28 November, where he’ll be presenting alongside Skip Fidura, Client Services Director at dotMailer. In an in-depth interview, Chris tells us why ODEON’s measured approach to data has reaped big rewards

Data. It’s everywhere. We’re drowning in the stuff. And as the size and scope of information available to marketers expands, it’s not just data that threatens to become unmanageable. Alongside the daily intake of stats is a stream of tools and advice, all designed to help marketers shape user information into something they can act on. But for Chris Boddice at ODEON, data needn’t be overwhelming. The cinema chain’s premise is simple: start by focussing on what you want to achieve. Then find the data that will help you do that. 

“The thing about ODEON,” he says, “is that we probably haven’t been particularly sophisticated in the way we’ve collected data in the past. And yet I think that might actually have helped us because it’s given us a chance to think very carefully about what we’re doing.”

Inside information

The ODEON chain dates back to 1930 and has lent its name to some of the most iconic buildings on Britain’s high streets. Until comparatively recently, says Boddice, the brand relied on cinema-goers completing a paper slip which contained an email address and other basic information. 

“We stopped doing that in about 2008 and had totally phased it out by 2010,” he says. “From there we started to organise all of that data collection online. We started driving people to the ODEON website to register and join our loyalty scheme. That meant we could capture the data we actually wanted to capture without worrying about poor handwriting and mistakes from manual data entry. That was a saving right away. I can’t tell you the number of people who’d give us their email address and it’d be wrong or unusable because we couldn’t read their writing or it was captured badly.”

So, now that the process is online, what kind of user information does ODEON find valuable, and how is it managed and acted on?

“Something which I think is very important,” says Boddice, “is not to ask fortoo much information. My approach has always been ‘what are you actually going to use?’ Make sure you get that across a wide proportion of your database. You can always go back and request further information later, once you’ve demonstrated the value of what they’ve already given you. What we’re looking for at ODEON is the important, fairly obvious stuff which lets us target our products in a relevant way to customers. That might be the sorts of films people are interested in, and what their favourite cinema is. That’s the core of what we catch from the people who volunteer to give information to us. The rest of the information we capture is based on transactions, behaviour and how people interact with our communications and that data tends to be far more valuable to us.” 

Analyse this

Data, of course, is only as useful as the insight it provides. So how do ODEON go about sifting through the stats and work out what they need?

“There are a number of ways you can do this,” says Boddice. “One way is to start with the data and get a clever analyst to look at it and determine what you should be doing. Nothing wrong with that approach. But the way we do it at ODEON is to start by thinking about the sorts of things we know we’re going to want to say and to tell people about. That includes any products we’ll be launching, films that’ll be coming out. From there we come up with the communications we want to send. The data is then used to find the right sorts of people to send those communications to, making sure the relevant messages get to the right people.” 

So for ODEON it sounds as if the message comes first, and data’s role is then to ensure that those messages are effectively targeted. 

“I’m not saying we never start with the data, as such,” says Boddice. “But more often we look at the shape of the year, we think about our products, we draw on our own experience of the industry and then we think about what we want to say and how we’re going to find the right people to send those messages to. But we also use that data at a more macro-level to work out whether particular types of emails or messages are working, whether we are talking across our base and also what our base might want us to tell them about. What we want to know is whether we’re driving engagement. Are we driving the bottom line?” 

Though email and loyalty scheme sign-up is a central plank in ODEON’s data-collection strategy, it’s not the only one. The activity of loyalty card holders is tracked through card swipes and the ODEON website provides transactional data on cinema-goers who aren’t part of the loyalty scheme. “Whenever we have a choice between transactional data and any other form, we use the transactional data,” says Boddice.

Segments and behaviour

As you’d expect, ODEON’s users are carefully segmented according to their behaviour and level of engagement with the brand and a model is used to help determine their likelihood of seeing any particular film. Unexpectedly, however, one of the most significant segments for the brand comprises users who don’t wish to receive any marketing material at all. 

“Those guys are actually very important to us,” says Boddice. “They come to the cinema. In fact they tend to be reasonably active. They just don’t want to receive any comms. Well, that’s great – because they’re effectively our control group.”

New sign-ups, he explains, are introduced gently to the brand – it’s six weeks before they start receiving regular mail-outs. Active, existing users are kept engaged with regular bursts of information, and there’s also a focus on inactive users, incentivising them to re-engage. 
“We look at how likely someone is to see a particular film, based on past purchases, opens and clicks,” says Boddice. “And simply by looking at that data, we’ve been able to massively drive up our ROI.”

So, ODEON’s approach to data has produced dividends. But what can marketers in other industries learn from the brand?

“I’ve worked agency-side and client-side,” says Boddice, “and what I’d say is it can be easy to make improvements just by thinking about what you want to achieve and moving slowly and surely, rather than throwing lots of money at agencies and tools. I’m not saying agencies and tools can’t be great because they can, but for ODEON right now it’s about thinking carefully about what we want to do. It’s about proving that you can get ROI and engagement by doing things at a small scale with the existing tools before you start spending huge amounts on detailed segmentations, models and specialist campaign management tools and databases. We’ve probably increased our email revenue from the same customers by about 35 per cent over the last two to three years, not allowing for the growth in database size, and at the same time we’ve cut our costs by about 50 per cent. So yes, look at what you want to achieve first and then supplement that by looking at the data.”

Article by Jon Fortgang