Structure No Longer Has a Vote on What’s Data or Not

by Sukki Sandhar

Not so long ago, businesses didn’t care about information outside the normal structure of trusted outlets like print media, trade journals, academic research and other trusted system-generated information. In fact, I would go so far as saying that if it wasn’t structured, it wasn’t data. All of this changed soon after customers started to freely express their comments and opinions on websites and bulletin boards. Views became another data point to track and analyze to harness customer preference as an aggregate and per each individual. In some ways, unstructured customer data via connectivity and social media has multiplied the already growing challenge of big data.

Unstructured data now matters

Now businesses thrive or fail on what these un-controlled, unstructured data sources say. From retailers to job sites, what unstructured data says about a business and brand matters. Businesses don’t control unstructured data sources, and this scares them. But, just like structured data sources, business can ingest, understand, react, and even anticipate what’s going to happen if they are clever.  The speed and pace at which unstructured data sources spread has increased due to the nature of the Internet and global connectivity.

How employee and customer knowledge becomes a data point

This is not new in terms of customer service; customers have always been complaining. What’s new is mass proliferation of this information to a social media following. What once would have been between one disgruntled customer griping to his friends and family has now become a status broadcast to hundreds that can even go viral and reach millions (the absolute worst nightmare for PR).  To compound this shift in information structure, the once unstructured information of personal anecdotes now masquerades as a trusted, structured, information source based on the close personal relationship between the social media follower and the original poster.

To see the price of not knowing, look no further than Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in London, laid low by the behavior of one employee who lost $1.3 billion in speculative trading. Despite surviving the Great Depression and both World Wars, Barings was brought down in 1995 by its head derivatives trader in Singapore. It was reasonably clear something was amiss when employees started to clear their desks and leave the building, but the structured data sources like rating agencies did not, and could not, react faster than the word on social websites.

Combining structured and unstructured data for a single view

The Financial Service industry relies heavily on what rating agencies provide on the structured data side, however, it’s clear the structured and unstructured data sources have their place when time and sentiment matters.  The ability to have high performance integration with low latency and the ability to process and understand unstructured data is fast becoming a holy grail.

Whether it’s a disgruntled employee whistleblowing corruption at a big bank or thousands of frustrated sports fan providing unstructured reactions to a structured news story about their team, unstructured data sources and how these integrate to better inform business decisions is going to be an area of extreme value to all businesses.

Read more by Sukki at The TIBCO Blog.

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Financial Services Rewards Programs – Considering the Possibilities

We’ve spent time illustrating various industries that have capitalized on, or would do well to explore, the possibilities of loyalty. From airlines to education, the benefits of a strategic rewards program leveraging innovative technology are evident. Now, we’d like to turn our attention to financial services and the many possibilities that could transpire from the right loyalty offering.

By utilizing the rich data available to them, financial service institutions have the ability to create highly relevant customer rewards programs – perhaps significantly more customized than any other industry. By effectively combining this data in conjunction with the online, mobile, and in-branch customer experiences, banks and card issuers can send a consistent, streamlined, and unique, message across all of these platforms.

Consider the speed at which rewards technology is advancing (and the recent economic pressures on financial industries), now is the time to optimize your programs. With the growth in card-linked offer capabilities, anticipated adoption of digital wallets and new point redemption schemes, the types of loyalty and rewards program differentiation that banks and issuers can provide has grown exponentially. As a bank, In addition to the more traditional types of loyalty messaging (points earned, access to points), you can now offer your customers rewards based entirely on their location — the point-of-sale perk. Making customers aware of the possibility for deals when they are actually in the process of purchasing will make your loyalty program more appealing and will help retain your customers in new, multi-faceted ways.

This seems like a no-brainer to us. But by making sure that the rewards program is actively exercising this kind of intelligent design you will be able to maximize each customer engagement opportunity. In addition to creating a more appealing program, it should allow you to better understand what kinds of rewards your customers prefer. Would they rather acquire points to be used at a later date? Do they want cash back or valuable merchant discounts? The more you know about each individual customer’s preferences, the better you can tailor their rewards program to their needs. What’s more, the customer should be able to access all of his or her customized banking and rewards content with one login (for web and mobile), as well as in-person at a bank branch or ATM.

Loyalty Lab has developed technology specifically to work with rich data of this nature, and make sure that it’s used most effectively. Imagine if a customer’s card revealed more than their account number and balance — if properly handled, you could know what they want, when they want it, and how to give it to them. That is a rewards program worth belonging to, and worth having.

We’ll be looking more closely at the digital wallet, social loyalty, and the best way to present offers to customers. Will you take a tip from financial services and the channel of conversions to better integrate communication for your loyal members?

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