AI, personalised marketing and retail technology – Highlights from the 2017 Festival of Marketing

| October 12, 2017 | By

“If we sleepwalk into AI, we’re in great danger.” Opening the Festival of Marketing 2017, Stephen Fry warned it was no good scrambling to catch-up – “you need to stay ahead and keep up-to-date on any new technology!” Yoyo marketing manager Jess Carroll offers her highlights from this year’s festival, which included getting the most out of LinkedIn, M&S’ take on personalised marketing and Shop Direct’s retail tech injection.

Any event that starts with Stephen Fry discussing Artificial Intelligence and ends on a debate with Byron Sharp was always going to be great, but this year’s Festival of Marketing shared some truly valuable insight for any marketeer heading into 2018.

Prolific for his tweets, Fry first “cracked” Twitter way back in 2008:

Nine years on, Fry says marketeers continually harass him for tips on how to “grow their following” [his currently stands at 12.9 million]. But, as he rightly said: If your focus is on growing followers, you don’t understand Twitter”.

I couldn’t agree more – it’s the same for all social platforms. It shouldn’t be a numbers game. Quality over quantity is the vein of a good social page, which in turn will lead to a more loyal and engaged following.

Fry also ignited one of this year’s buzzwords – AI, warning: “If we sleepwalk into AI we’re in great danger.”

Reminiscing on the “unexpected” success of the internet, Fry aptly reminded keen marketers in the room that it would be no good scrambling to catch-up. “You need to stay ahead and keep up-to-date on any new technology!”

Apt words for the opening of the Festival of Marketing 2017.

As sponsors, Yoyo was lucky enough to gain access to all of content sessions and speak to dozens of businesses about what their focal points would be for 2018.

Here are just a few of our highlights…

The LinkedIn Science Lab

Linkedin – described as the world’s largest social network for working professionals – had an entire experience room dedicated to helping businesses better use and understand their platform (lab themed – which was pretty cool).

LinkedIn advertising can cost a pretty penny, so the team were quick to highlight the organic success businesses can gain from their platform. Connecting with peers and creating company pages are an easy and free way to promote yourself/products/services.

A key piece of insight that was shared centred around what people should be posting, starting with the simple question: “Why do people go to LinkedIn?”

Their answer:

  • To connect with others

  • To seek opportunities

  • To gain valuable advice

So if you’re struggling on what to post or your engagement levels are low, make sure it aligns with what people are looking for when they log in.

One other useful tidbit was their Sponsored In-Mail  sending targeted comms straight into prospects’ LinkedIn inboxes. An effective tool if you’re looking to drive downloads or event registrations.  

The best part? Users can only receive one Sponsored In-mail every 60 days, so your message is almost guaranteed to grab their attention.

Marks & Spencer – Customer-centric growth: Learnings from M&S’ personalised marketing

Nathan Ansell, customer loyalty director at M&S, had one major piece of advice for companies:


One of the biggest changes  the industry now faces is the expectation from consumers that their content will be personalised.

Think of the “Made for you” section on Spotify, “Your recommendations” on Amazon or “Because you watched” on Netflix. These online companies are setting the tone, with consumers expecting the high street to catch up.

For some, this may seem like a “nice to have”, as collecting data for personalisation in the first place can be tricky. But, according to Ansell, “the more you know your customers the more you can do.”

As soon as you start identifying their purchasing behaviours, you can tailor your campaigns accordingly and watch sales grow.

Three tips on how you can “personalise”:

Whether you’re promoting an event, selling trainers or advertising your services – your content has to be relevant to your audience, or you’ll lose them.

Consider at what stage in the customer-life-cycle your targeted audience might be. Then you can explore whether your content is helping to nudge them further along.

A well-known tip worth reiterating – company content and websites need to be responsive. With desktops no longer the main source for digital consumption, we need to adapt to the devices in which our visitors are interacting with us – otherwise known as smartphones!

M&S implemented “personalisation” through their newly launched loyalty scheme – the Sparks Card, which gives customers the opportunity to earn digital points with every shop and receive personalised offers.

If you needed convincing that consumers love loyalty schemes, speak to Sparks card’s 6 million members.

While admitting they are still in the “learning” phase of customer loyalty, Ansell shared a brilliant set of loyalty rules that other businesses should follow:

Step 1: Pre-purchase – get to know your customers

Step 2: During purchase – inspire with recommendations

Step 3: Post-purchase – reward to retain custom

Shop Direct – Making your tech talk in retail and beyond

Shop Direct’s group marketing and creative director, Kenyette Nelson (a great speaker if you ever get the chance to attend his talks), spoke about customer experience, the vital role it plays in a sale and how tech can help.

Currently, 50% of Shop Direct’s (owners of sales come through mobile. So they had no choice but to build a better mobile experience that fitted their customers’ needs.

Nelson revealed tech played a huge part in this, helping to:

  • Hold more efficient conversations

  • Better identify and understand their audiences

  • Personalise the content and journey their consumers were experiencing  

Nelson also said: “60% of all human conversation is self-direct” (people talking about themselves).

Your focus should be on how to enter these conversations and engage with your consumers. Whether that’s via their email inboxes or mobile phones, while they’re browsing the web or on social media – this is where tech can be a great aid.

Look at what tools and platforms are best suited to helping you directly engage with your target audience.

The Festival ended with a great debate between Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson discussing the content of his iconic book “How Brands Grow” – a staple for any marketer wanting to dive into “the predictable pattern of how buyers buy, and how sales grow.” Most certainly worth a read!

I’ll leave you with a nice picture of Yoyo’s stand at this year’s Festival of Marketing, with our business development manager, Sebastian Sheffield, at the helm (had to be done!).