Clive Humby Founder Of Dunnhumby

Submitted by: Shareena Patel 13/07/2015

Clive Humby is the founder of dunnhumby, a UK-based agency specialising in database analytics that form the basis of retail loyalty cards. The company was bought by its first client Tesco.

“Brands still want to push their message out to consumers when it’s convenient to them. That’s not what the consumer wants. The consumer wants more control of the dialogue”

For the last 20-odd years, I’ve been analysing customer behaviour. At dunnhumby, we tried to understand how people shopped via the things they put in their baskets. Now I’m looking at other forms of data around the customer, things like their transaction records with Visa and Mastercard, their calling patterns on mobile phones and their social media engagement. It’s the process of understanding what people are really engaged with and how they engage with brands.
Effective customer engagement comprises three components: using the channels the customer wants you to use, publishing the content that you want, with delivery at the right time. The trouble is, brands are still in push mode. Brands still want to push their message out to consumers when it’s convenient to them. That’s not what the consumer wants. The consumer wants more control of the dialogue. I’m still a huge fan of print. The important thing with print is that it’s physical, and I don’t think you can underestimate that. But I also think its role is changing. I’ve seen a number of experiments with tailored content, where it’s been tailored using segments, where certain pages are different for different people.

We were involved in an example of that for Macey’s. They put a product catalogue out and the way that was compiled was a function of the type of customer you were. When you deliver physical print to a person, you can apply some of the principles of digital to the physical print process. That was a selective binding process that really worked. The other thing print needs to recognise is that it’s still got an immensely important role in a lot of consumer choices such as holidays. But it has to work out what its role is better. I don’t see the Thomson holiday catalogue or the Argos catalogue disappearing. They might slim down, they might become something different to what they are now, but they will continue to have a presence in people’s homes for a long time to come. When it comes to paid-for magazines, where the consumer is buying the physical magazine, whether it’s a one-off at the train station or a subscription of some form, those products need to work out how they can become an important destination for the customer. They need to understand that their digital footprint and printed footprint are complementary.


In terms of data, the most important thing is to understand is what data you’ve got and how to work out what it tells you. A lot of people fail to recognise that the data that’s collected is not actually the data they want, because it’s probably collected for a different reason. A great example is magazine subscriptions. If you’re a magazine subscriber, the data that’s collected on you is about fulfilling your subscription. It’s not actually about following your interest. I have half a dozen magazine subscriptions, which I engage with online as well as in print. But I can’t think of a single instance where people have used the fact that I look at certain types of stories or certain topic areas more or less. I’m just one of the 250,000 subscribers to that magazine. That’s one area where publishers could definitely use their data better.