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Customer segmentation at NEC Group: Uncovering what customers really want

Wednesday 1 November 2017 Customer PersonasData Insight & AnalyticsData-Led Marketing

Richard Tomlinson's picture
By Richard Tomlinson

Segmentation can be a winning strategy for a live events business looking to deliver an outstanding experience to each customer. Here’s how NEC Group nailed it.

As brands collect more and more data, they’re starting to be able to segment customers in ever more meaningful ways - unearthing connections and similarities between individuals that go far beyond their interaction with the brand itself.

That insight is driving innovative marketing and customer engagement strategies that would have been impossible just a few years ago. That’s especially true in the live events sector, where the quality of each customer’s experience is a major driver of growth and repeat business.

One brand showing what can be done with segmentation is the NEC Group, which runs the NEC in Birmingham along with a number of other venues and supporting businesses.

At a recent CACI Customer Analytics seminar, NEC Group’s group head of customer insights, Simon Wigley, shared the company’s segmentation strategy and journey. This blog is a summary of Simon’s talk.


A goldmine of customer data


Everyone knows the NEC in Birmingham, but NEC Group is about much more than that. As a company, it runs five exhibition centres, conference centres and entertainment venues, as well as six support service brands.

In total, the NEC Group hosts more than a thousand events each year, welcoming more than four million visitors through its doors. In doing so, it collects a lot of data - from ticket sales, Wi-Fi logins, web cookies, email campaigns, car parking, catering outlets, and many other sources.

The company saw an opportunity in all that data: not only to try to achieve a single view of each customer, but also to get a real understanding of who its customers really are, what they enjoy, and what they look for in a live event.  Knowing that, they’d be better able to fulfil their mission of delivering an unforgettable live experience.


Choosing a segmentation strategy


Intelligent segmentation seemed to be the key to getting that understanding - but what kind of segmentation? With a customer base of four million, NEC Group had to decide which dataset to segment: its own customers; the customers for a particular live event; the whole UK consumer population? And would a behavioural segmentation or a research-based segmentation work better?

These were critical questions, so NEC Group asked CACI for help. After much discussion, the chosen approach was a behavioural-based statistical segmentation of NEC Group’s own customers, which it would then project on to the whole addressable UK market.


Creating the segments


Gathering the data was the next part. NEC Group took its ticket purchase data from the previous five years, and combined it with its email marketing data and lifestyle and demographic data from CACI’s Acorn and Ocean datasets to create a statistical segmentation. It then added TGI data to the segments to get a view of people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

From that, it created seven core segments and put a lot of work into profiling each one: creating pen portraits, presentations and even a printed book.  

Caption: NEC Group’s seven core segments, created from internal and external datasets


Getting buy in


The next step was selling the segments to NEC’s five internal business units, as well as to its customers, who are events organisers and promoters. That involved a lot of face to face meetings, which are “essential to get people’s engagement,” according to Simon Wigley, NEC Group’s head of customer insights.

Both the internal groups and external customers responded positively, and the segmentation has now started to be used - with very promising results so far.


Using segments to drive growth


One of the first areas where it’s been applied is in email marketing. The campaign for the Good Food Show Winter used to be a one-size-fits-all email campaign, but this year the NEC did four different executions based on the segments. Not only did engagement rates increase, but the NEC was able to increase the reach of the campaign by targeting everyone in the relevant segments - a strategy that ultimately increased ticket sales.

The company and its customers have also seen positive results from tailoring the food and drink offers at different events to the segments, and from expanding the scope of some existing events to appeal to new segments.


Looking to the future: using segmentation to drive new revenue streams


The next step is to look at the “white space”: at hobbies and interests of the people in the different segments that aren’t yet catered to with live events. “If there isn’t an event that meets those needs, we’re starting to say there’s a gap in the market and starting to talk to organisers about doing something in that space,” said Simon Wigley. “Our customers have been really positive about it.”


More customer segmentation success stories

Discover how other leading brands are using customer segmentation to drive growth:

How Lloyds Banking Group nailed customer segmentation

Mastering customer segmentation in media: Telegraph case study

Segmentation can be a winning strategy for a live events business looking to deliver an outstanding experience to each customer. Here’s how NEC Group nailed it.

Customer segmentation at NEC Group: Uncovering what customers really want


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