60 In 1973, British households were spellbound by a TV ad from Cadbury's. It featured a family of aliens, the Smash Martians, who laughed at the thought of Earth people preparing their own mashed potatoes rather than using convenience food, Smash. In a future world flooded with data and ever- more customer- centric companies who shape strategy around customer insights, there may be similar amusement around the way we used to do marketing. Imagine sending the same piece of mail to millions of customers when only 1% will open it! Fancy broadcasting an identical ad to millions of TV viewers when most won't be interested in buying your product and the rest might not be watching! Ha ha! Cast back to a time when your local supermarket knew nothing about your shopping habits and treated you the same as everyone else! The hilarity of it all! So this tidal wave of customer data offers opportunities for consumers and businesses and could completely transform the world of marketing in the future, for the good of both parties. Let's look at what that future might look like. Kroger's health check In the not too distant future, the knowledge stored on loyalty cards like Tesco Clubcard could revolutionise the shopping experience in supermarkets. Soon checkout or even trolley screens will be able to guide and alert customers to relevant offers available in the store. This is already happening through the Tesco quarterly statement, but imagine if customers could be prompted and reminded as they were walking through the store... In the US, Kroger is using data to protect its customers from potential health threats. Since 2008, the US retailer has been identifying and contacting customers who purchased products that were later recalled. Dozens of customers have called Kroger to thank them, saying they feel grateful that their purchases are tracked to protect them. The daughter of a Kroger customer had been hospitalised with an undiagnosed illness, with medical treatments making little progress. Then her mother's attention was called to a product recall message on her receipt by a Kroger cashier. Doctors quickly focused on treating a food- borne illness, and the daughter recovered. any colour you like as long as it's any colour you like
61 a golden age Similarly in the future, shopping trolleys could come complete with a small TV screen near the handle. These trolleys would make the shopping trip easier - helping customers navigate around the store, highlighting to customers if they're buying products with saturated fat or fatty acids, or helping them shop to a budget. They could even broadcast a video of the shopper's children playing in the supermarket crèche. A similar application could be downloaded onto the shopper's iPhone or BlackBerry. Tesco. com's customers already store their shopping list online and could use it while they shopped in store. Similarly, Tesco collects detailed information on the sources of its ingredients and this information could be provided through the mobile application for shoppers wanting to know more about a particular product before purchase. The skill for a customer- focused organisation is working out how to do helpful things like this on a large enough scale. Why would they want to? Simple, if it's providing something useful, their customers will trust them more and come back again and again. Magic money At the moment, retailers collect customer data on loyalty cards. These have evolved in time; both Tesco and Kroger also offer customers key fobs that conveniently slip onto their key ring, but developments in South East Asia hint at how methods for both payment and loyalty cards might evolve. In technologically advanced markets like Japan and South Korea, consumers are already able to pay for items using their mobile phones. Their mobile devices are acting in a similar way to the Oyster Cards London commuters use for travel. They can be loaded up with money and then used as payment tools. In time, consumer will be able to set up their loyalty card as a platform on their mobile, in the same way that they might set up an Oyster Card application. Of course, this will have implications for the swell of customer data. It means that even impulse and convenience purchases - from chewing gum to a Snickers bar, can of Coke or a newspaper - can also be tracked.