Analysing customer data has helped O2 to fine-tune its marketing and target the most profitable customers.

The telecommunications giant told the Gartner Business Intelligence conference in London that by running analytics on its customers' calling records it can identify patterns between customers and determine the roles they play in their social networks. O2 then uses the insight to identify at whom to target particular marketing campaigns.

For example, the company was able to use the intelligence to identify the "influencer" in a group and help drive sales of the Apple iPhone.

"We can see [from the calling patterns] how valuable a person is in a group of friends, [as] you just want to speak to that one influencer who will pass the message on," said James Morgan, head of the Customer Intelligence Centre (CIC) Telefonica O2 UK.

He said that by targeting the influencer, the person most likely to be an early adopter and to spread the word, O2 was able to measure the success of the iPhone promotion by seeing how many people in the influencer's network went on to buy the handset. Purchases made after conversations took place "down the pub" would also be counted.

O2 can also use the customer information to help it expose mobile phone customers to other O2 products and services, which includes music venues and home broadband, as well as for customer growth and retention.

"If they [the influencer] calls another network, give them an offer to bring them [the person on another network] on [to O2].

"Moreover, if they [ an influencer] leave, their friends are 10 times more likely to leave, so you can go and retain them , and you can also look for triggers and act on it instantly," said Morgan.

O2 stores "useful" customer information in a Teradata data warehouse, and uses software from Ab Initio to manage the information. Other business intelligence tools that the telco uses include MicroStrategy for data reporting and Unica and SAS for analytics, which can run natively on the data warehouse.

Furthermore, Morgan said it was "very transformational" for the business, through the MicroStrategy tool, to be able to create dashboards that could be delivered not only via the intranet, but also on mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, so that reports can be easily accessed.