Business challenge

Having grown through merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, Towergate Insurance, Ltd. had a highly siloed and disparate data infrastructure, resulting in fragmented customer views that hampered and compromised marketing efforts.


By consolidating data and deploying a digital marketing automation platform, the company gained the customer insights it needed to build highly personalized and targeted email campaigns.


Increased income 15% and clickthrough rates 100%

from a single campaign compared to previous years

Doubled year-on-year results for an email campaign

by using behavioral data to hone messages and delivery times

Develops and launches campaigns up to 66% faster

from three weeks to one week, depending on workloads

Business challenge story

Data, data everywhere

Since its inception in 1997, Towergate has grown through M&A activity to become one of the UK’s leading insurance intermediaries. In fact, over the last two decades, the business has added more than 300 specialist insurance companies to its acquisition roster.

Each acquired company, however, came with its own back-end systems, customer management platforms and databases. The result, years later, was a highly siloed and disparate data infrastructure comprising multiple, unconnected systems.

And data silos are bad for marketing.

Keith Mowbray, Head of Digital Marketing at Towergate, elaborates: “Each business had its own customer journey. When you purchase a boat insurance product, you go through different journeys than you would if you purchased, say, a landlord’s insurance policy. But all of that customer data sat in separate back office systems. We have quite a large customer base across the UK but we do not have a central CRM.”

The decentralized data environment was problematic for several reasons. One issue was the quality of the data itself, which was unstandardized across Towergate’s various business units. To segment customers for campaign purposes, the company relied on data analysts. Still, email campaigns were generic and developed in an ad hoc fashion, as opposed to being personalized and part of a larger program.

Another issue was the process required to prepare and assemble campaigns, which involved moving data around. For each campaign, the team had to upload a new database of customers into its marketing platform, Silverpop, now branded as Watson™ Campaign Automation software. These new databases fragmented customer views which, in turn, made analyses difficult and less effective. The lengthy process also jeopardized the timeliness of campaigns.

“When we wanted to run an email marketing campaign, each of the local businesses would have to speak to their local marketing officer,” explains Mr. Mowbray. “The marketing officer would then have to pull the necessary data out of the back-end systems and upload it into the Silverpop system, which was a standalone database. Then we’d run the email campaign from that database.”

By 2017, the company recognized it was time for change. Mr. Mowbray says: “I thought, ‘We have the Watson platform — why aren’t we using it to its full potential? Let’s see what we can do.’”

Data was the crux of our challenges, so IBM was definitely the right solution.

Jennifer Lam, Digital Campaign Manager, Towergate Insurance, Ltd.

Transformation story

A single, consolidated view of customers

What Towergate did was turn to IBM to overhaul its data infrastructure and boost its marketing program.

The engagement began in January 2018 with a two-day data architecture workshop conducted by the IBM Watson Campaign Automation Consulting Services team. In attendance were the company’s marketing and data teams from across the UK who shared their challenges about the current marketing processes and their visions for future email marketing activities.

Jennifer Lam, Digital Campaign Manager at Towergate, comments on the experience: “IBM’s Consulting Services team was fantastic. From a data perspective, our situation was very complicated because each marketing team had different data requirements and nothing was standardized apart from maybe the customer name and an email address. But the IBM team understood our issues and the platform, and essentially came up with the solution we use today.”

Over the next 10 months, the IBM Watson Marketing Account Direction team built a new data infrastructure for Towergate — one that not only consolidates customer information in a single database but also feeds additional customer data, such as claims and policies, into the Watson Campaign Automation platform. On the marketing side, the Watson Marketing Account Direction team lent its expertise and strategic advice to help the company develop customer journeys. And to make sure customer data stayed current and relevant, IBM worked with Towergate’s technical team to set up recurring data imports.

“Customers sign up and opt-in to receive different communications, so we have nightly feeds from different sources that will upload that information into the customer database,” says Mr. Mowbray. “So we’re capturing a lot more customer data.”

To track web behaviors on its various websites, analyze campaign statistics and hone email strategies, Towergate takes advantage of the software’s Email Insights Analytics and Web Tracking components.

“With Email Insights we’re getting more information about how our customers behave and interact with our emails, like opens and clicks,” says Ms. Lam. “So, for instance, by knowing what kind of device they’re using or when during the day they’re reading emails, we can segment on that and refine our campaigns.”

With Web Tracking capabilities, the marketing team can track customers as they move from campaign emails to the company’s website, and then link that data with the Watson platform. Ms. Lam continues: “The information helps us with future remarketing journeys. With web tracking we can see which products people have looked at on our sites and add those customers to a cross-sell automated segment.”

In the near future, Towergate anticipates using IBM Watson Content Hub and IBM Watson Customer Experience Analytics solutions to gain more customer insight, manage its marketing content and hone customer journeys.

“Data was the crux of our challenges, so IBM was definitely the right solution,” says Ms. Lam. “Now we have a strong, solid platform that provides all these levels of capability.”

We’ve really benefited from the flexibility of the system. We’re finally able to capture all of the different types of data and data fields that the different marketing teams require.

Jennifer Lam, Digital Campaign Manager, Towergate Insurance, Ltd.

Results story

Data-driven campaigns, big returns

Today, more than a million customers have opted in to receive newsletters and emails, and Towergate generates and manages its campaigns with more ease and efficiency than ever before.

In the past, depending on the workload of the data team, launching a campaign required three weeks. Today it takes about a week, or up to 66 percent faster. Equally important is that the campaigns themselves are more targeted, timely and relevant, and contribute handsomely to the bottom line.

Case in point: for a December 2018 campaign, the company sent newsletters to 130,000 of its customers with car hire insurance. In addition to a 35 percent open rate, the campaign’s clickthrough rate increased 100 percent year-on-year and generated 15 percent more income for the company compared to the previous year’s campaign. Towergate attributes the campaign’s success to improved, mobile-optimized email templates, strategic timing, and shorter, more provocative copywriting.

The solution consolidates once-disparate data to deliver single customer views and unprecedented customer insights. “We’ve really benefited from the flexibility of the system,” says Ms. Lam. “We’re finally able to capture all of the different types of data and data fields that the different marketing teams require.”

Towergate uses its newfound insights to be more proactive about retaining customers, such as those with expiring policies.

“In the past, if we wanted to send our lapsed customers a win-back campaign, we had to go to our data team and ask for that data,” explains Ms. Lam. “But by the time we had that data, some of it was outdated or not as relevant. With the new system, we can target based on specific dates. Since we know when a customer’s lapse date is coming up, we can send a campaign 30 – 60 days before that date to try and win them back. We’re being proactive.”

The solution’s automation capabilities eliminate the need to manually compile and launch email campaigns. In fact, by automating its campaign programs, the company saves its marketing team roughly three hours of time. The campaigns also take advantage of behavioral data to re-engage otherwise lost customers and refine how it communicates with existing customers. As a result, one campaign that targets customers with staff absence insurance has already outperformed previous years.

“Previously, for our staff absence policy, our marketing team would build 6 – 7 emails and then manually run them between January and April,” explains Ms. Lam. “Now, with the Watson automation feature, we can map out the exact journey we want our customer to go on, pre-build all of the emails in January and then let that fly.”

She continues: “We also use behavioral data. So if the customer didn’t engage with the first or second email, we use that data to follow up with a slightly different strategy that uses a softer approach, like sharing articles.”

Towergate is also exploring IBM WeatherFX for Watson Campaign Automation software so it can infuse email messages with weather intelligence and alert customers to weather events. 

“We’ve seen a correlation between the number of claims and weather-related incidents, which we’re looking into in more detail,” explains Ms. Lam. “So if a storm is going to hit a local marina, for instance, we can use our data and the data provided by the weather company to send targeted, automated emails to customers who have boats at the marina and warn them.”

“We hope our content is useful to our customers,” concludes Mr. Mowbray. “With Watson, we can show our customers that we’re here to help them as well as insure them.”

business logo

Towergate Insurance, Ltd.

Towergate is one of the leading insurance intermediaries in the UK. It is an important distribution channel for a significant range of insurance products and a key strategic partner for the UK’s largest insurers. Towergate’s scale, customer insight and distribution relationships make it a unique business and a leader in the markets in which it operates. Its combination of distribution and underwriting gives it unparalleled consumer data and market insight. Towergate Insurance is part of the Ardonagh Group; a network of over 100 offices and a workforce of nearly 7,000 people.

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