INFO-DRIVEN MARKETING;MARKETERS WORLDWIDE SWITCH ON DATABASES;ATTENTION TURNS TO INFORMATION ON BUYING HABITS (PART 1/3)

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Today's international retailers, manufacturers and media companies are coming to depend on information to provide open doors to consumer habits.

That means marketers around the world are implementing new marketing programs-based on consumer database information-for stock replenishment, just-in time inventory and new ways to reach consumers as they adapt for the 21st century.

Information-driven marketing has matured in the U.K., where the practice is said to be five years behind the U.S. In a recent survey of 100 large British businesses by the Manchester Business School, more than half the respondents said database marketing would be their main promotional tool within five years.

Consumer goods companies are investing in computer databases. American Express' European division already has the technology to market to individuals.

"Mass marketing is gone," said Glen Cox, senior VP-customer service and marketing for A.C. Nielsen of Canada. "Why? Because data are available now that weren't five years ago in Canada."

Mr. Cox said this information is real-time data that provide weekly up-to-the-minute information and analysis.

"Our smarter customers test those theories and assumptions and act on them," he said.

Today companies react to consumers' decisions based on information gathered at the checkout counter.

International marketing consultants such as Nielsen say what their customers do with the information is as important as, if not more important than, how they acquire it. Information gathering also includes frequent shopping programs, point-of-sale research, data mining, scanning, fidelity cards and other marketing tricks. "With new information, you don't find yourself buying four truckloads of Pampers if you need just two cases," Mr. Cox said.

Even with all the information available to them, some marketers are still afraid to jump on the information-marketing train.

Information marketing is discussed, said Doug Bird, account manager at Act Media in Toronto. "But some manufacturers fail to understand the dynamics of a product. And to talk category management to them.... well, some are still in the 18th century."

Mr. Bird credits Wal-Mart as driving international information marketing in some locations.

"The Canadian marketplace is not as developed as in the U.S.," he said. "But Wal-Mart is forcing that here."

While information-driven marketing is a hot topic, it still is coming into focus in many countries.

"Data mining is still very new," said Rachel Postoethwaite, public relations director at Technical Solutions, New York. "But when you tie all this information into consumer details, you can target them."

Data mining from IBM is the placing of all information into a giant computer and then allowing the computer to analyze the data without asking it any questions.

"IBM has only a few customers who have results from their programs," she said, declining to name them or give results.

In Frankfurt, scanning data is used to tell stores which flavors or fragrances sell best and which package sizes buyers prefer.

"Consequently, buyers can act immediately and ship the preferred flavors or sizes and change production schedules," said Bernd Michael, CEO of Grey Dusseldorf.

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