With brands such as Now, Horse & Hound and Wallpaper, TI Media is the UK’s third-largest consumer magazine publisher and one facing similar challenges to other businesses in its sector: an overall drop in print readership and advertising revenues that cannot be made up with returns from online advertising. The company needed to find a way to use its data to generate more revenue from its 40-plus brands.
The starting point, says Lee Wilmore, Data Intelligence Director at TI Media, was to integrate all customer data into a single cloud-based data lake. As part of this process, Wilmore implemented Talend Cloud Data Quality on a Snowflake database on Amazon Web Services (AWS). With a holistic view of all customer data in one domain, he says TI Media was able to better target its readers and deal with its business challenges:
We had three main pressure points at the beginning of last year – and it was my role to solve those challenges. We had a realisation that data and the business was changing very rapidly. We had to move things along in terms of data much more quickly. We had pressure from marketing to increase the volume of our data-related activity in terms of the outputs across our single customer view. And we had to save money.
Wilmore proposed to the board that the firm would be best placed developing in-house data expertise, rather than outsourcing data capability. His team developed a good understanding of the data integration tools marketplace by reviewing analyst reports, such as those from Gartner. Wilmore and his team then reached out to companies in the market, including Talend, and found out whether their claims met his business’ demands:
We needed a supplier that could help us overcome our challenges, which primarily meant giving our business a tool that would allow us to do whatever we wanted to with our data. That’s key, because the business often comes up with data use cases that even surprise us. We needed something that was flexible and which could handle the volumes of data that we get off our web sites, so hundreds of millions of interactions every month. We also needed a tool that integrated nicely with the cloud.
At the same time as his organisation was assessing the data integration marketplace, Wilmore’s team also evaluated database specialists. It was crucial both of these implementations could work together – and Wilmore says Talend and Snowflake helped address this requirement:
Through the procurement process they offered us a proof of concept. This proof of concept took place over a couple of weeks with engineers from both companies. Without having to buy the products, we were able to live test them and we could prove that we could deliver a project. When it came to Talend, for example, we could prove that it could map data onto a database table and inject that straight into Snowflake, all within a single job that we could set up and run as frequently as we wanted to.
Wilmore says his team faced significant time pressures. A break-point in the contract with the media firm’s incumbent supplier meant TI Media – whose big-name brands also include Country Life, TV Times and Woman’s Own – had three months to deliver the data integration project. After running the proof of concept at their offices in February 2018, Wilmore and his team went live with Talend in June 2018. Wilmore says the business now benefits in a number of ways, including better customer targeting:
We’d stopped using direct mail as a channel because it wasn’t responsive enough. But access to the right data means we’ve been able to restart that initiative and that’s paying dividends in terms of some much better response rates than we were getting before. When it comes to Facebook and Instagram, we can now integrate directly into Facebook advertising, so we can advertise our products and services, and we can use our data, for example, to exclude an active subscriber from an acquisition campaign.
The company sends out 30 million emails per month to customers. Since implementing Talend, the company is executing marketing campaigns 10 per cent faster and response rates have increased by five per cent. Estimates suggest that TI Media can gain £40 million of additional revenue from converting just one percent of readers coming to their websites into sales. The data integration project has also helped reduce the time to onboard new data by 85% and reduced data budgets by 50% in the first year. As to future aims, Wilmore says:
We’ve proved that Talend and Snowflake can work together to save us cash and allow us to move quicker – we’ve basically proved everything we set out to do. Over the next 12 months, the success of our project in getting people to open their doors and put data in the cloud will mean that we can prove to other people in the business that, by working with our platform, we can save them money, increase the flexibility of what they can do with their data, and that they’ll be able to move quicker in order to make money out of their data.
When it comes to best-practice advice for other digital leaders thinking of undertaking a data integration project, Wilmore advises his peers to focus on two key areas – understanding your data and communicating with your business colleagues:
First, you really have to know your data – it doesn’t matter if you have a person who doesn’t know how to use a tool because you can teach them to use it. If they fundamentally don’t know their data, then you’re not going to get anywhere. And second, it’s all about communication, which isn’t always at the front of mind of people who work with data. You need to be absolutely integrated with your business and communicating, so that they understand what you’re doing and that you understand what their challenges are.