A Data-Driven Approach to Customer Relationships

A Case Study of Nedbank’s Data Practices in South Africa

by: Laura Winig

In 2015, store managers at BUCO, a hardware retailer with 46 locations across South Africa, had an intuitive feel for whether men or women were their most frequent customers, which locations had the most loyal customers, and from what suburbs the most valuable customers to a given store were coming. That all changed shortly after Judy Gounden, a group marketing executive at BUCO’s parent company, Iliad Africa Ltd., began using Market Edge, a commercial data service provided by Nedbank Group Ltd., South Africa’s fourth-largest bank by market value.

According to Gounden, Market Edge — which packages credit and debit card information with geolocation, demographic, and other transactional data — enabled new insights into customers’ behaviors that would have been difficult to identify without the new tool. These insights in turn have changed the way the company operates, says Gounden:

We can now look at card transaction data and say, “On a Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., we had the most card transactions versus any other day in the week, and most of these people are 50 and 60 years old.” That’s our pensioner day. In some geographical regions, we’ve got very high loyalty, and in others, we get new customers constantly, so the tool helps us think about how we market in each region. What’s more, when I told a store manager who believed that most of his business was derived from local residents that, in fact, half of his business was coming from residents that lived in a town 10 kilometers away, his eyes went wide and he said, “How do you know that?” So we shared the data with him. At BUCO’s location in Nelspruit, which is on the Crocodile River in the northeast near Kruger National Park, we learned through the data that a large portion of our clientele was female, so we introduced a Saturday craft workshop featuring chalk paint. It’s the latest craze in do-it-yourself painting. The workshop was a huge hit; it just accelerated the craft area of that business.

About the Research


1. M. Tushman and D. Kiron, “Ingrid Johnson and Nedbank Business Banking,” Harvard Business School case no. 410-003 (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2009, revised January 2013).

2. S. Mungadze, “Nedbank Rolls Out SA’s First Big Data Service,” July 16, 2015, http://www.bdlive.co.za.

3. Basel III (or the Third Basel Accord) is a global, voluntary regulatory framework on bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk intended to strengthen bank capital requirements by increasing bank liquidity and decreasing bank leverage.

4. The Card and Payment business was not strictly speaking a business unit within RBB, as it provided services to all customer segment businesses within Nedbank Group.

5. Nedbank adheres to the South African Protection of Personal Information Act.

i. “Annual Results, 2015,” n.d., www.nedbank.co.za, accessed July 25, 2016.

ii. S. Mapenzauswa, “Higher South African Rates Leave Households Saddled With Crushing Debt,” June 3, 2016, www.reuters.com.

iii. R. Essop, “IMF Paints a Bleak Picture For SA’s Economic Growth,” July 7, 2016, http://ewn.co.za.

iv. T. Skade, “Nedbank crowned the best retail bank in Africa,” June 1, 2016, http://www.destinyman.com.

v. D. Pontefract, “Wells Fargo Proves Corporate Culture Can Also Be a Competitive Disadvantage,” Sept. 15, 2016, www.forbes.com.

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Comments (3)
Eugene Chan
Wow, very thorough. Well done!
Pawel Soproniuk
Literally I have never seen such an in-depth case study. Thanks!
Alicia Alvin
Great case study. I appreciate the way you explained.