By far the best decision Vodafone’s insights team made in 2020 was launching their Market Logic insights platform, says Mike Taylor, Vodafone’s Head of Insights. They launched “VIC” (Vodafone Insight Centre) the first day of lockdown in the UK, and the platform immediately gave their remote teams a space for “virtual water cooler moments.”
“VIC has become the primary distribution channel for all of our regular reporting that previously was a PDF flying around on six distribution lists to people in various forms,” Mike says. “It’s been a really good way for us to maintain engagement on the core insights we deliver, and specifically insights through the pandemic, right across the business.”
Vodafone wants to be the company customers love, not just like. Sarah Emblin, Vodafone’s Senior Insight Manager, and Kirsten Kuhnert, Head of Customer Insights at Vodafone UK, say customer centricity is at the centre of Vodafone’s three-year strategy. And from the perspective of Mike and the insights team, the “effective circulation, discussion, and digestion of consumer insights” is essential to keeping customers at the heart of everything Vodafone does.
In the past, business managers had to go to five or six different places for research, largely housed on SharePoint. This was hugely ineffective: “We started from the point of view that the SharePoint situation wasn’t right for us. We needed to solve that,” Sarah says.
Vodafone is a connectivity business with over 20 million broadband subscribers and more than 300 million mobile customers, and they recently broke into smart tech production. When everyone started working from home during the pandemic, the lines between B2B and B2C blurred.
What followed was a pressing need to understand a new consumer landscape. “As insights managers, we needed to support these new products’ development,” Sarah says. Vodafone needed an insights platform to deliver an up-to-date view of the consumer from a centralized knowledge hub.
Vodafone’s insights platform, affectionately referred to as “VIC,” is a one-stop solution with an intelligent search function and a rich content experience. In less than a year, VIC has delivered:
Vodafone’s global business is made up of independent firms in different countries that all have their own local insights teams. Before VIC, this meant that business and consumer insights were separated and teams were “fighting around an email in a grotty old SharePoint site,” Mike says. The solution was a centralized knowledge hub. VIC contains all of Vodafone’s content, and new research is uploaded as soon as it’s completed for all global insights teams to use. VIC also has the business’s brand and customer experience tracking programs, including NPS, available in an easy-to-browse newsfeed. And Mike loves how the platform is branded the same as Vodafone’s internal system.
With everyone working from home, the lines between B2B and B2C blurred. During the chaotic and massive economic shifts of 2020, VIC launched at just the right time and led to insights democratization at Vodafone. Mike says it’s been advantageous to be able to share knowledge across B2B and B2C lines. VIC is as open as possible, with a single sign-on system and few ring-fenced areas for certain seniority levels.
Insights professionals and business users see a fully personalized experience when they log on to VIC. Thanks to AI algorithms, the platform learns from user-profiles and behaviors. “It learns as they go.
It shows them what they found useful and what’s pertinent to their role,” Mike says. For example, VIC might pull up agency reviews or new pilot work for an insights pro, but for a marketeer VIC will surface more validated insights findings. “It builds trust in the platform,” Mike says.
While there’s longstanding insights people at Vodafone and, in the past, their corporate memory supported the team in finding past information, Mike says it was still a large effort and, when those people were away, Vodafone saw duplicated effort and work. Now with VIC, the team can learn from past research.
“When we’re writing new briefs for research, we can see what we already know.” Sarah says, “It’s made a big difference to our behaviours and activities so far.”
Mike calls this the “wow factor.” He says VIC’s smart search will convince even the most sceptical finance departments. He distils the issue frankly: “Anyone who’s used a SharePoint site knows the search facility is pretty much useless. You have to know the title of the documents or the project to actually find it.”
VIC’s AI-powered smart search provides a dream search solution for insights professionals and marketeers alike—“you can just start typing what you want to know about 5G rollout in Italy, for example, and it will automatically bring up relevant excerpts on documents for you to work with.”
When Covid-19 hit, VIC created a virtual space that made sure people were still sharing information around a “virtual watercooler.” “It’s been brilliant,” Mike says, “When we’re not able to get into the office and just pick up on conversation across the desk, we can actually push insights out to people in a way that’s far more effective than we had previously.”
In particular, the insights team’s Covid-19 insights “has been consumed really heavily in the first six months, when people were just trying to understand what’s going on in people’s attitudes.” Kirsten points out that the insights team in charge of VIC’s rollout, “is hugely disciplined, making sure we use every opportunity to direct traffic to VIC.”
Launched in March, VIC’s already seen 7000 searches and shares with over 290 users and an impressive library of nearly 2000 documents (a £42 million knowledge asset). They started rolling out the platform to Vodafone’s insights professionals then to their marketeers. Eventually, they want to make the platform universal—the “nirvana,” Mike says, “where even your finance teams and people who run the office will be dipping into it to understand customers more.”