Marketers tackle data collection challenges

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Crabtree & Evelyn is using a centralized CRM system to keep data more secure for its loyalty program
Crabtree & Evelyn is using a centralized CRM system to keep data more secure for its loyalty program

Even when data is well integrated, marketers are challenged in deciding which data is actionable for messaging. “Figuring out how to integrate the deluge of data in a single infrastructure is hard,” says Lawrence Kimmel, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association. “It's not just a question of physically linking all of the databases. It's also a question of organizing staff and creating clear business systems that let the different databases and data sources speak a common language and deliver consistent metrics and analyses.”

With so much personal data circulating the online ecosystem, it's imperative that marketers figure out how to not only collect and use data but also protect it. On the one hand, marketers want to centralize their customer data to provide a more cohesive experience for customers, but on the other hand, in bringing data-sets together, they need to make sure that data is kept secure.


One way in which marketers are safeguarding customer data is to put protocols in place that separate personally identifiable information (PII data), which includes things like a mailing address, a social security number or a credit card number, separate from cookies, click and transactional data. To track a customer's non-personally identifiable data, marketers often assign a number to a customer that is independent of anything personal and keep it in a secure, encrypted vault with limited access.

Encryption is another way to help keep data safe. According to Experian's “Data Breach Resolution” report released last January, which interviewed IT professionals from 500 companies that experienced a breach, 60% of marketers said that customer data that was lost or stolen was not encrypted. Jeff Lundal, SVP and GM of Experian Marketing Services Data Management Services Group, says that another level of protection that company uses is “de-identified and modeled consumer data,” which helps keep customer information private.

Consumers tend to feel differently about different kinds of data being collected about them. “Fundamentally, people are less worried about behavioral data than they are about personally identifiable data,” Khatibloo says. “They are more concerned about their address and email address than they are about the stuff they are putting out there on the Web, like sites they are visiting.”

Click data is often more secure, since it isn't tied to PII data. “A lot of that data is difficult to match up to individual customers,” says Taylor Duersch, VP of decision sciences at Carlson Marketing. “But click-stream data is a challenge, too, because you have to figure out what to keep and what not to keep to make marketing more relevant to customers.”

For ideeli, an e-commerce site dedicated to daily deals on women's fashion, consumers expect to have a curated experience based on their personal browsing and purchase history. To ensure data security, ideeli has a series of controls and technologies in place. The company also limits the access that its staffers have to data, and they use products like credit card tokenization to reduce or eliminate the need to store sensitive data. “The key behind good data security is to be realistic about the value of the data you are storing and the cost of an attack,” says Mark Uhrmacher, cofounder and CTO of ideeli.

Uhrmacher says that the customer data that ideeli does store is useful for marketing purposes. “Most of the data we store is voluminous and low value in segments,” he says. “The value comes with the processing, most of which is proprietary. We aren't too concerned someone will manage to break in and spend three weeks downloading click stream data.

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