Invest to Grow: Using research to drive innovation

NEC Group

This case study is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 1 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in innovation and research & development and is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

In the live events industry, no audience is the same.

After conducting extensive research around people who go to our venues, we wanted to understand the bigger picture of event go-ers across the UK.

People are motivated by a wide range of factors reflecting their lifestyles, incomes, life stage and interests.

We knew that investing in market segmentation would help us identify our most valuable customers for future growth. It would give us the ability to match them with relevant products and services and help us tailor our communications – both in terms of channels and tone of voice – to best resonate with them.

The five areas we challenged ourselves to explore were the make-up of customers, why they attend events, how we engage with them, their hierarchy of needs and how this impacts their customer experience.

We started by analysing our existing database - combining information on over three million UK adults from NEC Group data and bespoke research from event attendees. 

This was then projected onto the UK population and enriched with new data sources.  The external companies we worked with included TGI and CACI  who specialise in attitudinal and behavioural data and demographic and lifestyle choices

From this material, we created an event goer profile – matching approximately two thirds of the UK population.

We then identified seven distinct segments of people who share common characteristics including life stage and lifecycle, behaviour and attitudes. For each group, we created a more detailed profile – drilling down to factors ranging from what brands they buy and the cars they drive to what shows and events are appealing and what they wouldn’t be seen dead at.

We mapped this insight against our customer database to identify potential areas for growth.

It’s not a one-off project – we’re constantly adding and analysing new data to ensure we’re in touch with new audience trends and attitudes. 

This framework is helping us to:

  1. Engage more effectively with customer groups - We can tweak our tone of voice and emphasize the elements we know will appeal. For example, for high-income, time-poor “unconstrained affluents” we get to the point quickly and don’t force humour.  
  2. Extend our reach – Now we know the audience profile for different shows, we can identify “look alike” audiences and promote our events to them, an example of this was a Facebook campaign to promote Harlem Globetrotters where we extended the reach from 10K likely attendees to over 40K.
  3. Grow existing shows –  With a high-profile food show, we demonstrated to event organisers there is a trend of younger visitors worth targeting. While we suspected this segment would be influenced by programmes like BakeOff, our new tool can prove it.
  4. Identify gaps in the market for new events -  Segmentation helps us spot potential gaps in the market – we’re currently working with organisers to develop brand new show concepts.
  5. Improve Media and Sponsorship - We can map brand and retailer preferences for different audiences, so we can sell media more effectively and help organisers identify potential brands to form mutually beneficial partnerships.

We’re now powered by data with market-leading insight informing all key strategic decisions. This is reflected in our healthy 17/18 year end results with earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) up £4.9m (9.8%).

Our advice to businesses of all sizes considering R&D activity is that it can clearly add value for clients and ultimately grow your profits.

While investing in external data sources has been valuable, the project has been led and delivered by our in-house business intelligence and analytics team so the main cost has been staff time.

This has included educating the rest of the business – from our ticketing arm to our catering specialists – on how to make the most of our exciting new resource.

About The NEC Group 

NEC Group is a live entertainment business with over forty years of world-class expertise in venue and destination management. 

Every year, over seven million people come together at more than 750 events at our venues and neighbouring Resorts World to learn, conduct business and be entertained. 

Five of the UK’s leading venues come under our portfolio - the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), International Convention Centre (ICC), Genting Arena, Arena Birmingham and the Vox Conference Centre.  

Additional interests include national ticketing agency, The Ticket Factory; hospitality brand, Amplify and award-winning caterer, Amadeus, as well as out-of-home digital media specialists and sponsorship consultancy, NEC Connect Group. We also have a consultancy arm, NEC Group Venue Partnerships, which was recently awarded operating partner status for the iconic former Bradford Odeon.  

Nic Young
Group Marketing Director
NEC Group