He will also be speaking at the event, which is the only forum that provides marketers with actionable insight and practical guidance around data strategy.

To give an idea of the type of topics that will be covered at the conference I asked Ben to pick out the key trends that he noticed while judging the awards.

Here’s what he said…

1. Data Understanding

This is the move from just collecting data to making use of the most valuable data. That’s quite a big shift in the language of big data that everyone talks about.

We’re starting to see some very smart applications and uses of data that in some cases, certainly among the awards entries we saw, have led to some really transformational results.

That for me is quite a big shift, and one that you would expect in most adoption curves in the marketing and business world.

I think that’s driven in part by businesses learning from their mistakes.

Automation is so heavily embedded in marketing now that some tools are used very heavily and actually drive the wrong results, so people have realised that just collecting and using a lot of data doesn’t necessarily mean that’s going to drive the bottom line.

2. Using data to anticipate business/consumer needs and demands

We’re starting to see a much more customer-centric usage of data. 

Businesses are using data not just to inform product improvements or channel shifts, but also to inform the choices that consumers have on their purchase journey.

There have always been brands that have done that very well, but you’re starting to see a much bigger adoption of this as a standard marketing approach.

Specifically this is starting to come out in ‘next best action’ recommendations as opposed to ‘next best product’, so if this customer behaves in this way we need to make this kind of intervention, which from a service perspective is hugely valuable.

Product recommendations from Amazon

At Royal Mail we use behavioural triggers as an indicator that customers will either be looking for a new product to buy, or potentially looking to move to a different provider, so we use those triggers to drive certain actions, which might be a customer service call or a sales person booking a meeting with someone.

3. Real-time applications

Not only do we have much greater understanding of our customers but we’re now able to anticipate customer demands far better, and we can do that in real-time.

This is a nascent trend, one that’s reported an awful lot in the trade press but when you actually look at the number of businesses that actually do this in the UK it’s probably quite small.

I think it’s a trend that isn’t going to go away, but whether that’s real-time applications through mobile apps or beacon technology or whatever, what we’re seeing is increased customisation and personalisation at a mass level. 

This kind of thing can start from quite humble beginnings, and there are a lot of people trying it with beacon technology, through to really quite sophisticated systems.

We’ve just deployed in our Parcel Force business a product called Select which uses text notifications telling customers when their parcel will be delivered and they can text back to alter the time and things like that.

There’s a lot of infrastructure that sits behind that, but you’re starting to see much better implementation of data which is vastly improving the customer experience.

4. Capability

This falls into two areas. Firstly the capability to utilise the data and manage it.

From an organisational perspective who does that sit with – IT or maybe marketing – and also when you get into the marketing mix do you outsource this or in-house it?

How much power do we really want to give over to our media agencies? It’s our data and it’s very valuable, so surely we should have this in-house.

There’s a lot of different thinking going on around where data should live and how we should resource against it.

At Royal Mail we’ve employed some data scientists who do an awful lot of data crunching as we want tot have that capability in-house, but there are a lot of organisations that haven’t done that and who want to use the expertise of their agencies to bring extra value to it.

That’s an interesting trend and a source of great debate.

Buy tickets to the Data Storytelling Conference this Thursday to hear from brands including Royal Mail, The Economist and British Airways.