By Scott Logie is Customer Engagement Director, REaD Group
After the year we have just had, I feel it is unwise to put in place overly confident predictions for 2021: I looked back at last year’s posts and blogs and nowhere could I find the words ‘global pandemic’.
Maybe this year it is better to go out on a limb, and say that in 2021, Elvis will indeed be returned to us by the aliens who snatched him; that I will have next year’s Christmas number one despite never having recorded a note in my life; and Prime Minister Katie Price will lift new COVID-20 restrictions in time for us all to have a socially-distanced Christmas next year, and then rescind everything she said. You never know.
Data quality is more important than ever
Two things I did mention last year have actually happened. The first – a greater emphasis on data hygiene – was actually driven faster by the pandemic as more businesses realised that, in order to build longer-lasting online relationships with face-to-face no longer an option, they needed to have the best data available so that they could contact them via other means.
Basic data cleaning and later, data enhancement – the process of adding new data to existing records to enhance what they know about their customers – became a focus for many businesses from the summer onwards. In addition, there was a significant increase in the use of data to plug the gaps of knowledge that were lost through not having customers in-store or in a branch, or in fact, meeting at events, on the streets or in railway stations.
It’s unlikely that this will slow down. In fact, it’s more likely that there will be an increased demand for online and automated solutions for both data cleaning and data appending, and this trend is likely to continue into this year.
Traditional channels rise again
Another trend from 2020 likely to continue into 2021 is that some of the more traditional channels became fashionable again. Direct mail had a resurgence, for example. In their Mail Matters More Than Ever guide, Royal Mail MarketReach showed that with people working from home, mail responses increased with engagement higher than ever at 96%. And it wasn’t just in older demographics: the biggest rise was in the 18-34-year-old age group. A massive 88% of people paid the same or more attention to mail during the lockdown. With many of us now working more from home as we go into next year and beyond, mail will continue to play an important role.
Maybe even more importantly, as a business, we saw direct mail response rates increase, with fantastic campaigns delivering amazing responses across charity, retail and financial services. We leave the year with many clients who had moments of terror in March but who have ended up delivering above and beyond their revised targets.
Automation vs. human engagement
So, what else do we see happening in 2021? Last year, I talked a bit about automation and how it would be used to alleviate the ‘heavy lifting’ involved with the management and processing of data. This year, I wonder if we might end up moving towards a more human form of engagement.
As we become used to using Teams, Zoom and the rest, there is a definite craving for real human interaction. While the new ways of working have definitely improved our lives, they also leave a void at times, and this shows that people can’t be wholly replaced by machines. Clearly, automation is important when it comes to efficiency and such, but a balance is required.
Having said that, another trend from last year that I see increasing into this year is the desire for convenience. Amazon might have set the bar a while ago for next day, or next hour, deliveries, but convenience has now become the norm and brands have had to raise their game. Recently I was speaking to someone who runs a plant and seeds delivery business. In general, they grow to order so the orders can take some time to fulfill. This year, they received way more orders than expected, which is of course a good thing, but they also had a lot of people chasing orders as they expected next-day delivery; unlikely on something that hasn’t grown yet!
Our insatiable desire for instant gratification is now being met more often than not. So what does that mean for service in 2021? Or indeed for any new entrants, or even the behemoths themselves? Could this erosion of a differentiator mean we don’t end up using Amazon as often?
A whole new ideology
In 2021 we have the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Many people believe that we might begin moving towards a new way of working together to achieve our goals, prioritising the good of the community as a whole, increased social awareness and a softer, dare I say, more feminine ideology. I for one am up for that: we can but hope!
REaD Group is a marketing data and insight company that uses its unrivalled data products, insight and expertise to help its clients get closer to their customers, offering market-leading data quality and cleaning solutions and trusted marketing data.