An introduction to Starcount’s products – interview with Rowena Humby

We asked our Chief Product Officer, Rowena Humby to give us an introduction to Starcount’s products Observatory and Audiences and explain a little bit about what makes Starcount so popular with clients:

Rowena before we talk Products, could you tell us a bit about the company background? Why Starcount? Why social data? Why now?

When our CEO and CDO, Edwina and Clive decided to come back to work after retiring from dunnhumby, their mission was to find data sets that gave brands who didn’t have the luxury of rich grocery transaction data like Tesco the ability to understand consumers in just as much detail.

Grocery data is great because customers come frequently and buy lots of items but if you sell cars, handbags, insurance, or sofas you may only see your customer every 5 years… or twice a year if you’re lucky.

So to increase their loyalty, engagement and to encourage upsell, you have to find out what they love more than just your brand. They looked at lots of data sources but social data was by far the most insightful, effective and far-reaching option as it gives a really honest view of what people love and engage with. Instead of being rearview-focused and looking at past behaviour, it allows us to look at lifestyles, motivations and mindsets to predict how customers will behave in the future. Knowing this gives brands a better idea of how to tailor their communication plans and overall strategy to achieve greater engagement with existing and prospective customers, giving them a competitive advantage in the market.

What made them choose to invest in Starcount?

There was a huge opportunity with the data! Starcount was, at the time a celebrity and brand ranking tool, Clive and I spent the first 3 years creating ways of interpreting consumer interests based on the ‘social stars’ they follow. This led to the creation of what we now know and love as our ‘passion graph’ which shows what customers love outside of their shopping habits and where they consume these passions, be it brands, influencers, media channels etc.

Could you tell us more about the Starcount Observatory?

Well, where do we begin? The Observatory uses the passion graph I mentioned to combine social media data from 1.3 billion global consumers. It’s awesome because you can instantly visualise how consumers are motivated and triggered. You understand their interests, motivations and lifestyle patterns and can see where their emotional loyalty really lies. We monitor and quantify emerging trends, predict future buying behaviour and track the changes over time.

Unlike many data sets used today to understand why consumers buy – such as TGI and YouGov surveys which model out data from very small sets (around 150,000 people) – our social data is at individual customer level. Observatory presents rich insights built off a panel of 25 million, in the UK alone!

What exactly are passions and motivations and what do they tell us?

Yes, all the buzzwords can be confusing. Here they are explained:

  • Stars – Any social media account with a significant following or profile.
  • Star Type – What are they (brand, website, influencer, media, destination, organisation etc.)
  • Passions/Motivations – The passion is the ‘why’ somebody would follow a ‘Star’. What are their hobbies? What do they like to do/study/get involved in? By understanding passions, you can see why they follow certain ‘Stars’. What are the reasons for liking electric cars? Is it because they’re technology enthusiasts? Are they environmentally conscious?
  • Penetration – The number of people in the segment that follow the
    ‘Star’ or match with the passion.
  • Mindsets – once you understand the passions and motivations (what they are interested in and why) you can start to understand the mindsets i.e. how they will act in the future.

How is Audiences different and what do your clients use it for?

Audiences was created as a natural partner to the Observatory. The Observatory is a customer segmentation tool which delivers bespoke market insights. We wanted to build something that our clients could use without our assistance to create their own audiences for targeting and more importantly – use to plan omnichannel marketing.

So what we did was statistically score each of our fans on their passions, demographics and mindsets and map them to postcodes across the UK. By doing this, our clients can create their own consumer audiences, see the trending passions of their customers and find look-alikes that match their most valuable customer segments. It allows brands to better target their media with outdoor, door drop and create more detailed digital audience recipes for Facebook and other social advertising. Audiences delivers insight on over 53m UK customers to 1.8m postcodes meaning you can get really rich insight, see changes in behaviour over time and map new emerging trends by area.
There are a lot of companies in the marketplace that use social data but what makes Starcount unique?
Well, I’m glad you asked. A lot of companies are social listeners, i.e. they analyse what people are posting and discussing online to see what’s trending. The challenge with this is that only around 11% of social media users actually create or share content. 89% are passive consumers of information!! The Observatory is unique as it looks at an individual’s followership rather than just what they are saying. Analysing who people follow tells a lot about the 89% in terms of the breadth of their interests, removes the bias, as well as picking up what that silent majority care about. Further, Starcount’s unique ability to combine consumer passions from social data with a client’s transaction data results in a far more powerful view of customers. We have a unique mix of technical expertise in data science and product development. The variety of skill sets means that we build brilliant solutions and are always able to address a client’s challenge, no matter what it is. The Audiences platform is completely user-friendly and requires no implementation.  It’s dynamic, omnichannel ready, accurate, GDPR compliant, up to date and most importantly predictive.
What do you do when a client doesn’t require a social data set and wants to use their own?
Well, the pivotal moment for us was when we realised clients still wanted our help with their data – this is why we have a team of world-class data scientists to help implement the insight. Brands who can’t understand enough about customers from their own data have the ability to combine with ours and understand the background to why their customers buy what they do. Also, our heritage lends us the skill set to carry out the consultancy work as part of our product offering. The combination of these products and our consultancy services gives us a unique footing in the market. Few companies can offer such a comprehensive data offering with the same speed and accuracy as we do as well as the skilled data scientists and consultants that help turn insight into action.
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