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

Consumer trust is an important topic these days. Recently, a number of high-profile hacking incidents affected millions of consumers. In January, a hacker accessed Zappos.com's customer database, gaining access to customer information such as email address, billing and shipping addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit card numbers. In June of last year, Citigroup reported that an unauthorized person hacked the files of about 1% of its Citi North America bank card accounts. Last April, Sony's PlayStation Network customer database was broken into, and hackers accessed the personal information of about 100 million consumers. Last March, Epsilon experienced a data breach, which affected several clients' customer databases including Walgreens, Best Buy and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Xerox employs various security protocols to ensure that its customers are protected. “We have a disciplined process on privacy, and data governance as well,” says Christa Carone, CMO of Xerox. “It is all about trust with your clients, establishing and maintaining that trust so that your prospects and clients believe in the value that you bring. It is paramount.”

Despite the risks, data is important to marketing. Data defines the types of campaigns that marketers can launch to reach the most appropriate consumer in the most successful manner. Good data can save marketers by avoiding communications with lapsed consumers and creating personalized experiences for active customers.

“We don't have big ad budgets, but to get people excited about our products we encourage them to register and become a part of our database, and through this we begin to understand what their behavior is and how they fit into our segments,” says Tom Woodside, VP of marketing and e-commerce at cosmetics retailer Crabtree & Evelyn. “And then we can have a relevant conversation with them.”

As technology continues to evolve and customers are interacting with brands across more channels, CRM systems are more important than ever. These platforms are great tools to help marketers capture and store data from various sources, including mobile, social media, email, direct mail and call centers. “A lot of marketers underutilize good old CRM and don't take enough time to understand when someone is buying, what they are buying, how much they spent, who they are, where they live and how it will influence product development,” Woodside says.

Despite the fact that consumers are concerned about security breaches, many customers are still willing to share information about themselves online, especially the younger ones. According to Forrester Research, only 33% of 18-to-24-year olds are concerned that companies they interact with can access online behavioral data such as Internet browsing history or a social networking profile.

“We have seen a heightened awareness on part of customers about divulging information, but we haven't seen that relayed into a decrease in their willingness to participate,” says Peter DeNunzio, president of customer loyalty at Carlson Marketing. “One would have thought that everyone would say, ‘I'm not going to give you my email address or phone number or ZIP code,' but that's not the case. Everyone is willing to give this information as long as there is some kind of value exchange.”

Creating relevance

Marketers should only be collecting data that is relevant to the campaign and data that will serve customers. According to Forrester Research, 44% of consumers will opt out of a transaction if they don't like something that they see in a privacy policy online.

“We've had this idea that we should suck in all this data regardless of if it is actionable, because maybe it will be actionable in the future, but consumers don't like this,” says Fatemeh Khatibloo, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Breaches bring these things into the spotlight, but it's not just driven by fear, it's about interest. If you are creating a digital interest or something that is valuable, then consumers will be willing to share.”

Crabtree & Evelyn is trying to provide value with its campaigns. The beauty retailer is in the process of working with CRM agency 89 Degrees to revamp its brand to attract a new generation. To make itself more appealing to a younger audience, the brand is running social media campaigns and has launched a new loyalty program. The company is using a newly centralized CRM system to help make its process more streamlined, its messaging more targeted and its data more secure.

As part of its Facebook promotions, customers that share an email address or join the company's new loyalty program will get discounts and exclusive experiences reserved only for these loyal customers. “The benefit to the customer is that we reward them with discounts and unexpected surprises,” Woodside says. “Prior to Mother's Day, we'll be sending out an exclusive gift to people in the program that won't be available to anyone else.”

Organizing data can be a real challenge, especially for marketers that have different departments interacting with customers, all of whom collect data from different places. A brand might have call centers that collect information that is not being tied into a Facebook marketing program or an in-store shopping experience. American Red Cross not only has hundreds of chapters collecting data, but each arm has its own unique way of coding data. “As you can imagine, it doesn't all match up because we are not comparing apples to apples,” Elwood says. “As part of our CRM initiative, we are rolling out standard coding, which is a huge project for us.”

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