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CRM, Beacons and Customer Data: Securing Customer Information in the Cloud

Posted In Online services, Technology Reviews - By Techtiplib on Friday, February 7th, 2014 With No Comments »

A concept that Apple quietly released last year has the potential to revolutionize targeted marketing for retailers. The iBeacon, powered by Bluetooth 4.0, allows a customer’s iPhone to identify itself to Bluetooth sensors placed around a retail store. Activating an iBeacon automatically causes the Bluetooth sensor to deliver content to a shopper’s mobile phone. For example, targeted ads based on past purchases or advertising based on in-store browsing patterns could be delivered directly to a shopper’s device, enticing the shopper to make a purchase before leaving the store.

Different CRM systems allow employee access management in different ways

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At the National Retail Federation in early January, multiple solutions providers, including Zebra Communications and GPShopper, displayed programs designed to leverage cloud CRM, mobile devices and Bluetooth for segmented customer marketing. Multiple types of beacons, including iBeacon, could power a marketing revolution for retailers, but they also raise questions about customer privacy and data protection. If retailers want to track customer habits and gain close-range access to Smartphones, then retailers need to have high stewardship standards for guarding customer data in the cloud.

Current Customer Tracking Capabilities

Retailers are already tracking customers, whether customers realize it or not. Some companies like Digby provide barcodes, customized mobile apps and mobile marketing campaigns for retailers. Customers have to opt in by downloading the Digby Localpoint app, and they receive deals in return for allowing retailers to track them. Other analytics providers, like Nearbuy Systems, track customers from the moment that customers log in to a retailer’s Wi-Fi network. A more stealthy system like Euclid can monitor any smartphone that has Wi-Fi turned on whether or not the customer opts in or logs into a retailer’s network.

Tracking during online shopping is a given; virtually any customer expects his or her online shopping habits to be tracked. Though tracking a customer’s physical location isn’t too different from tracking online behavior, for some consumers, in-store monitoring may feel a bit invasive. In-store marketing with Bluetooth beacons adds even more fine-tuning to targeted advertising. However, it enables more comprehensive data collection from consumers than ever before, and it requires retailers to take extra steps to secure sensitive data within the cloud.

How Data Becomes Vulnerable

Customer data is not only vulnerable to outside attackers but also to employee misuse. When retailers focus on outside attackers, it’s easy to overlook obvious ways that employees could inappropriately access data. Consider these daily business functions that give employees access to customer information:

  • Exporting information to Excel. Employees that have access to this function can acquire almost any piece of customer data and remove it from the premises.
  • Offline CRM. If a company system allows employees to download data to their computers for offline use, then a stolen employee laptop could contain reams of customer data.
  • Mobile access. Allowing employees to log in to the company intranet from a mobile device gives them the ability to work from almost any location. It also makes the network vulnerable if devices are lost or stolen or if employees use weak passwords to log in to the network.
  • Mail merge. To assemble a direct mail campaign, employees can export customer data into MS Word. If the wrong employee has access to mail merge, then customer data is at risk.

Limiting Employee Access

Different CRM systems allow employee access management in different ways. Whatever the requirements of a specific CRM system, IT should carefully manage employee permissions and access. Many data breaches occur when IT fails to adjust access after employees leave the organization. Retailers must manage employee sharing permissions. If a marketing employee goes on vacation, then co-workers may need to access data that the employee normally manages. However, employees who aren’t supervisors should not have the ability to edit the vacationing employee’s data. In addition to limiting sharing, retailers should limit functions like Export, Mail Merge and Offline CRM to prevent data from leaving the premises.

Strong cloud security solutions should protect the company intranet for employees who need to access customer data remotely. Cloud security also protects customer data from malicious network attacks. Although they can’t prevent every data breach, common-sense security measures limit both the number of attacks and how much damage attacks can cause. Both access management and cloud security solutions provide the protection that customers deserve.

Author Bio:

Erica is a marketing consultant who helps companies deploy and use effective CRM systems. She recommends SafeNet Cloud Security to her clients.

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