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Data-Driven Marketing with Telefónica Global Head of Analytics, Malik Samjee


Malik Samjee | Interview

Malik is a long-serving veteran of Telefónica, the Spain-based global telecommunications giant. During his 20-year tenure, his titles have included (among others): Global Head of Pricing & Commercial Strategy, Global Head of Customer Loyalty, and until beginning of this year, Global Head of Analytics and Business Intelligence for the Smart Home, a global strategic project for Telefónica. His self-stated professional goal is to use his analytical capabilities to help drive better data-driven decision-making across the entire organisation.

Can you tell us more about Smart WiFi?

Smart WiFi basically gives our users more customisability when it comes to their home WiFi — they can pause the connection, create and share guest passwords, or run speed tests. 

Interestingly, Smart WifFi is actually run like its own startup rather than as a subsidiary of Telefónica. It was born truly global (when compared to other apps that we have) — our goal has always been to roll it out to all countries, so everything, design and production-wise has always adopted that global lense. 

I think that it’s been really useful to be able to leverage Telefónica’s tech, data, and user base. A great example of this, leveraging insights about your network usage via Smart WIFI. This allows us to identify pain points in the customer journey. Do they live in a large property with poor connection in certain areas? Let’s offer them an amplifier to solve this problem, creating value by problem solving, it’s a win-win. Customers hate having poor internet connections and we have made it our mission to improve Telefónica’s WiFi — so what’s not to love?

How do data, product, and marketing come together?

Consumers want to have more direct relationships with their providers and digital is a fundamental part of this. Call centres are out — accessible in-app experiences are in. We want to pre-empt and prevent problems rather than only engaging with customers when they have an issue. As part of this strategy, we have included our Smart Home app as part of our Internet service installation process.

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To be honest, I’m more of a marketing and data guy. I’ve noticed that when it comes to marketing, there’s often a large gap between the creative element and understanding the results: measuring a campaign’s true effectiveness.

How do you solve this? By having people on your marketing team with hybrid profiles, people who have expert knowledge of both business and analytics. Personally speaking, I tend to think of marketing as referring to acquisition, engagement, and retention, whereas product is more focused on UX, the customer journey, funnels, and your roadmap. Both need customer data to iterate and improve.

How are you building your 360-degree customer view? 

We’re currently looking at building more bridges between our different apps — for instance, if one of your customers is on two of your apps, they should be treated as the same person (with the same data-led personalisation) no matter which app they’re using.

We could potentially do this with single sign-on, or cookies between apps, before then creating a single customer view… It is a real challenge. Right now, this is sitting with the IT team — they have to come up with the precise roadmap for integrating multiple legacy systems.

We have a few challenges that spring to mind:

  1. Telefonica still has different stacks in some business and markets. Full-stack replacements/integrations are on the agenda.
  2. There is a clear opportunity for us to leverage our own channels instead of a traditional focus on paid media channels.
  3. Reliance on legacy tech and infrastructure is a common challenge many organisations face. From procurement to implementation, migration to training, the list of hurdles to change are endless. The larger the organisation and older the tech, the more difficult it can be to ensure your business has the tools it needs to grow.

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How do you talk with 1.5 million customers across multiple different channels?

We use country-based communication. Each country manages its own communication locally (brand colors, messaging, language, legal, tone of voice, etc.). At the start, we were all using the same, generic communication strategies — but customers in each country are not the same, and you have to cater to these differences if you’re going to get the best results possible.

We also segment our communication methods depending on what we are specifically trying to achieve. For instance, we mostly use push messages when trying to retain mobile users, but we use in-app messages for the purposes of increasing engagement.

How do you think about user engagement?

We use engagement to measure the overall value that we bring to our customers. However, it’s slightly strange — we actually don’t want our customers to be spending all day on the app, so there’s a definite point after which too much engagement becomes a bad thing. For example, for the self-care part of the app (where users diagnose connection problems), if users use this a lot, then it’s a big issue. If you’re doing speed tests all day long then something’s clearly wrong!

Generally speaking, people only ever become ‘power users’ of our app when they have an issue at that precise moment. Once it’s all solved, they stop using the app — and that’s absolutely fine.  This just shows that engagement isn’t the be-all and end-all of app marketing. Sure, it’s a useful metric, but you have to put it into the context of what you’re actually trying to achieve.

Building a 360-degree customer view

How do you build a customer-driven organisation? How do you identify their pain points? How do you build personalised products and experiences? How do you build a great customer experience and encourage brand loyalty? Believe it or not, there’s one simple answer to these three questions: by having a detailed, data-led understanding of your customers.

Adopting a 360-degree view of your customers lets you understand how, why, and when they’ve previously interacted with your brand. This then allows you to personalise how you speak to them and which products you choose to promote, for instance.

In short, you can interact with your customers in a more human-like manner. You know their preferences, their dislikes, and their habits — which ultimately makes you more valuable to them. Data-driven marketing is the key to building a 360-degree customer view. Customer data always tells a valuable story, provided you know where to look…

These projects however often fail because companies chose to build in house of go for multi-year transformation projects instead of designing use cases, experiments and getting incremental value out of the data they start collecting.

The 3 key steps to building a 360-degree customer view

1. Build the right team

Sure, anyone can look at data, but only genuine analysts can weave a story from what the numbers are saying. Hiring data experts is one move that will always provide a clear (and usually astronomically high!) ROI.

2. Invest in the right tools

Internal data, competitive intelligence, market research, and more… The number of MarTech tools has exploded in recent years. When you set about creating your MarTech stack, this might all seem slightly daunting at first. We get it. However, invest time, energy, and money into building the right tech stack if you really want to build a 360-degree view of your customers.

3. Focus on quality data

Every piece of data has the potential to tell a vital story, whether that’s about an individual customer, one of your products, or the effectiveness of your own marketing campaigns. The more data you mine and analyse, the better — you’ll eventually find the golden nugget that inspires a new product, revolutionises your customer experience, or solves major pain points just to give a few examples. However, you need to make sure that the data you capture is accurate, well structured and usable. You also want to make sure that there is a reason and business case for collecting the data.

Lastly… Just get started! It won’t be easy and it might not give you great results right away, but whatever you do, just keep on having fun and experimenting.

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