While the banking industry has always been adept at protecting people’s data, new regulations aimed such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Safeguards Rule have made customer data security an even bigger priority. This tightening of data security has been so broad reaching in its effect that certain information is much less accessible to marketers who want to leverage it for more personalized and relevant messaging. The software as a service (SaaS) marketing tools that make personalization and data segmentation possible in other industries are often off-limits in banking, due specifically to the security concerns involved with uploading and storing sensitive customer data “in the cloud.” But data security and marketing personalization don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
A hybrid solution has emerged that allows sensitive customer data to remain in a centralized, in-house database behind a company firewall, while selectively making use of cloud applications. In other words, applications that work in the cloud can handle tasks without requiring that your data also be stored in the cloud. Prior to this new hybrid model, SaaS marketing tools required that data always be stored in the cloud, meaning the only viable option for financial institutions was to deploy a cumbersome, costly, proprietary, on-premise system — the only way to ensure data security standards were being met. Today, however, a new hybrid marketing application in the cloud can access your on-premise, centralized database using without creating any copies of sensitive customer data.
Nowhere is this more relevant than email. The opportunities to segment, personalize and automate email marketing is tremendous, provided financial institutions can wrangle their data securely. That’s where the new hybrid marketing model comes in. Here are three specific reasons banks and credit unions should consider incorporating a cloud-based application into their email marketing strategy.
1) Increased Security
Data security is a huge concern for consumers, and banking is at the forefront of this issue. In fact, 57% of financial institutions worry about losing control of their data, and 55% see data breaches as a huge potential risk, according to a 2015 study by the Cloud Security Alliance. Not surprisingly, it is common for financial institutions to spend millions of dollars annually to manage data and store it securely behind a their own private firewall. With such a huge investment in data security, it is understandable why many financial organizations might be hesitant to replicate their data and push it to a SaaS email service provider.
Any time data is copied and stored in another location, it increases the exposure risk for the data. Additionally, storing data in the cloud requires constant syncing of data over the internet — more opportunities for data to get hijacked. However, the hybrid model is designed to eliminate the data duplication, storage and syncing typically required in traditional cloud computing solutions. Instead of pushing sensitive customer data to the cloud for storage, a hybrid solution allows you to keep your data behind your company firewall. An on-premise application plugs directly into your company’s secure database, accessing only the information needed and sending only necessary data (encrypted, of course) to the cloud for processing. Once the task is complete, the data disappears from the cloud application. It’s a little bit like using a handheld calculator — once the calculation is complete, the input data originally entered by the user is gone. Similarly, when data does not remain stored on cloud servers, it greatly reduces the risk data will be exposed.
2) Enhanced Personalization
Seven out of every ten consumers see their banking relationship as merely transactional, according to the North American Consumer Digital Banking Survey from Accenture. Part of the reason consumers feel disconnected from their financial institution can be directly attributed to the lack of personalization, particularly with respect to marketing. Another study by Relevancy Group and Harland Clarke found that only 38% of financial institutions reported segmenting subscribers around any kind of specific account activity, such as opening a new account.
Personalizing email marketing has proven to be a challenge for financial marketers for multiple reasons. When financial services companies serve as their own email service provider, so much effort is required simply to manage the system that segmentation and personalization usually fall to the wayside. For banks and credit unions using third-party email providers, they have to manually cherry-pick and collate those pieces of information that can be sent to the service provider, specifically due to data security concerns. As a result, the level of personalization that takes place — if any — is limited to basic demographic or geographic targeting. Segmentation and personalization become easier and more secure when all of a company’s customer data is accessed directly from their own internal databases, without any need to make copies and store sensitive data in the cloud.
3) Improved Collaboration
Financial marketers often face a challenge when trying to collect data from other departments within their organization to build a more unified view of customer engagement. Information is frequently stored in silos, making it difficult to track interactions. With each new product or feature a financial institution adds, a platform is tacked on and a new database is created, which further fractures the overall view of customer interactions. A customer could make a transaction online, then speak with a customer service representative on the phone, and eventually stop in a branch — all without any way to link these behaviors together. By utilizing all these disjointed platforms that all require their own database, financial marketers’ ability to leverage data is severely limited.
To overcome these organizational and operational rifts, financial institutions need to shift to a centralized, internal database that all departments can share and access, including the marketing team. By organizing customer data in a centralized database vs. parsing out data between different divisions, you gain an expanded, more holistic view into the customer journey.
You can — and should — work together internally to address your unique data security needs while simultaneously enabling marketing with the power of personalization. The result will be a deeper level of connection with increasingly engaged customers throughout the entire customer journey lifecycle.
Dan Roy is CEO and co-founder of MessageGears, the first and only email marketing service to combine the power and security of on-premises software with the efficiency and scalability of cloud delivery. Dan has more than 25 years of experience in enterprise technology, with an emphasis in enterprise email marketing software and services.