In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Up-and-coming online grocery retailer, HelloFresh, is making great strides in the Australian marketplace due to its fanatical obsession with data. But the tool it is using to draw insights from isn’t any advanced visualisation or analytics suite – it’s Microsoft Excel.
The Berlin-based company was brought to Australia three years ago by former MasterChef contestant, Tom Rutledge. The company delivers recipes and all necessary ingredients to make three complete meals with cooking time of 30 minutes or less.
Matt Taylor joined the company as chief marketing officer for Australia two years ago, following stints with StyleTread, Cudo and Fairfax Digital, along with eyewear retailer, Bailey Nelson, which he co-founded. He immediately noted a lack of data within HelloFresh, and instigated a series of small trial campaigns using Excel as an analysis tool.
“We would trial as many campaigns as we could, and build out hypotheses around what we thought conversion rates might be, and ensure everyone in the marketing team was sitting as close to the data as possible,” Taylor says.
“We developed a simple Excel sheet and formula we could pump numbers in to and decide whether a trial would be viable. And then we would start with the smallest trials possible and quickly build up a bit of data on a broad range of campaigns, so we could start to see what was going to work, what wasn’t, and what channels we could continue to explore.”
Taylor and his team has since come up with a number of Excel formulas for factors such as campaign performance, customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value. He also continues to ensure that everyone in his team remains “as close to the data as possible”.
“By getting even the guys without a huge amount of marketing experience as close to the numbers as possible, it allows everyone to make decisions on the fly,” Taylor says. “It’s very important to have everyone not only seeing the numbers, but be able to dive in and manipulate the numbers.”
Taylor says the extensive use of Excel means the company usually seeks to hire people with strong Excel experience, or who are already extremely numerate and train them up.
“We find that while sometimes it can take a while to set up the first template, we actually now have a really great set of tools that we have built ourselves in Excel that we can use every day really quickly and can update on the fly,” Taylor says.
“It is such a powerful tool. Every day I sit there and am amazed by some of the stuff you can do, and the way you can crunch certain things. We haven’t felt the need just yet to look for any other solutions.”
Taylor, who will be presenting at the ADMA Data Day forums in Sydney and Melbourne later in March, says his experience with data has been very different to what he expected when he started in marketing.
“When I started many years ago I certainly saw myself as a creative marketer, and as strategic thinking, big picture person,” he says. “One the things I found is without data your creative campaigns mean nothing. By becoming data-focused and a lot closer to the data I allowed myself as a creative marketer to do so much more, because I could come up with a cool funky campaign that I was really passionate about, but then I could prove it and sell it and expand it.”
Even so, Taylor cautions that it is possible to become lose in data.
“Data is, 99 per cent of the time, your best friend, but every so often you can read too much into things. We get as much data as we can and ask simple questions of the data.”
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