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Q&A: Tom Rigden, Commercial Director, idhl intelligence division

Tom Rigden is a client partner and digital strategist with 20 years in the industry and a keen focus on driving commercial and operational outcomes. He… View Article


Q&A: Tom Rigden, Commercial Director, idhl intelligence division

Tom Rigden is a client partner and digital strategist with 20 years in the industry and a keen focus on driving commercial and operational outcomes. He is a lateral thinker and problem solver with a deep understanding of integrated performance marketing, marketing technology, web development, and data science, known for his ability to think outside the box to deliver results that exceed expectations.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

There’s not a job I haven’t done in digital agencies. Over the last 20 years I’ve pretty much done all the client-facing roles concerning strategy, client services and commercial. Whether that’s to do with integrated performance, marketing, web design and development or data science, I have worked across all the various services within an agency.

My role has always been that of an interpreter. What I mean by that is I work to understand and unpack a client’s business problem and then help create a plan or a strategy based on this. Ultimately, my job is all about solving problems and this requires some lateral thinking. And at the core of that must be a solid understanding of your client and being able to pull the right information from their business to then put a plan in place. When you come back to this concept of ‘the right information’, I think that all comes down to data and all too often that’s the point where clients have the biggest struggle. And that’s where we come in.

The reason I decided to focus on data and data science in the most recent years of my career is that I could see that was where the market was heading. It was an area where clients had the biggest problems and that needed the greatest degree of simplification. As I started to focus more on this, my role shifted to focus more on data science and that ultimately led me to idhl, where I run their intelligence division.

What does your company do? / What is your USP? 

idhl is made up of nearly 400 experts and has three core divisions: intelligence, performance, web and eCommerce. We see our division as the glue between web and performance, using intelligence to solve problems with data. For instance, we can help create better briefs for performance, we can inform more targeted campaigns or help to orchestrate better customer experiences and understand what drives the most conversions on a website.

Our intelligence division is, at its core, really simple. We exploit data and technology to drive better marketing outcomes. Within that we help clients activate better campaigns across their platforms. For those who need assistance with data insight, we can help with customer segmentation and data strategy. And we can also help with data visualisation, business intelligence and marketing automation, too.

I see a common challenge across all our clients which is that their budgets are constrained and they’re time poor. We act as an accelerator to plug into what are now typically small marketing teams, helping them to do more with their money and time and in doing so, get better results.

What’s special about your brand and your approach?

Our job is to simplify complex challenges and enable clients to have a great degree of certainty in the decision making by giving them a plan that’s backed by data – so they can always explain the rationale behind their reasoning. How are we able to offer this to our clients? It comes down to having a team of really smart people who understand data, can manipulate it and can model it. Taking this, we can then activate it and orchestrate it into campaigns. Most importantly, we can do this quickly, driving real change in a short space of time for businesses who want to reach the next step in their strategy.

What advantage does it add?

Ultimately, we’re just trying to put the power back into the hands of the businesses we work with. One major challenge we see is people trying to attribute success to their various platforms and not truly understanding where results are actually coming from. We collect, connect, consolidate and create a true view of what’s happening within a client’s customer base and can show where value is being driven from.

How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?

Everything starts with data. We need to gain an understanding of what’s happening across a customer base and what’s driving value for a business. From that point we can execute a variety of strategies, whether it be business intelligence to help surface and visualise data in a more available and accessible way to increase speed to insight, or maybe it’s the activation of a loyalty and nurture campaign that helps drive incremental value. There are a number of things we can implement to help a brand do more with what they already have.

We have a series of robust processes across our propositions but fundamentally everything comes back to that starting point of understanding your data and what’s helping you drive value across your customer base. Once we have that, we can triage clients through a variety of routes and their associated benefits.

How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?

By the time we start working with a brand, they typically already work across a lot of platforms. They’ve already purchased a load of different systems or software and now they’re trying to work out how to get the best out of them. Often, we find clients are struggling to do that, whether it be a lack of time, expertise or sometimes it’s a limitation of the platform itself.

This is where we can come in. Developing a strategy with your data, we can better execute within the platforms that our clients have already invested in and help them get better results from them. We provide a competitive advantage simply because we help brands make decisions more confident in their outcome and have a high probability that they’re going to work. Having a data-driven approach, applying AI and using machine learning within your strategy just enables brands to feel more in control with their approach.

Sometimes it’s quite hard for clients that haven’t done this before and haven’t gone down this route to invest because it’s not like SEO or PPC. It’s not something you expect to see on the budget sheet every year, but the very minute that you do this, it starts to drive decision making and budget weighting across everything else that you do. So, sometimes it’s just about pulling the plaster off and going for it.

Are there other companies you partner with?

We have a strategy within idhl intelligence to partner with the best-of-breed, leading-edge technologies that can enable us to do our best work.

For decision intelligence we partner with HyperFinity, for content optimisation we work with Dragonfly AI and for our marketing automation offering, we are tech-agnostic. We don’t have a vested interest in recommending specific partners or platforms, we work across all the various automation platforms. Our focus instead is on helping brands really harness the power whichever provider they are working with. We do have a curated list of platform partners based on them being market leaders in their own right, but we don’t limit ourselves to working only with them specifically.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2024 / What challenges are retailers facing in 2024?

It feels like stating the obvious, but the economy is under great pressure and the impact that can have on retailers is huge. People are much more prudent with their money and the landscape has become even more competitive. Despite this, the eCommerce sector continues to grow but brands must continue to innovate and find new ways to reach and engage with their audience.

Businesses who invest in data science are really going to get ahead of the pack and those who don’t are in danger of falling behind. Wherever I can, I want to encourage people to start thinking about this and start provisioning budget for it next year, so you can start to build the foundations.

It’s a really competitive time for retailers right now, so anything brands can do to get ahead of the curve can’t be a bad thing.

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

It’s an exciting year for idhl. We’re consolidating eight of our agencies into one digital powerhouse, with our three divisions leading the way as experts in their disciplines. We’ve always been integrated, working across our connected agencies to deliver the best possible results for clients. But this move allows us to continue our drive for innovation and addresses the market need.

Any final thoughts?

The retail landscape is evolving rapidly and brands need the ability to adapt in this fast-paced market. The best way to be able to adapt is to be able to make quick decisions and to have confidence in your strategy. How do you achieve that? Simple. By having a data-driven approach.


To find out how idhl can help your retail operation, visit them here or connect with them here.

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