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Facebook, U.S. Bank Say They Keep Customers in Control of Data

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Facebook knows that if it misuses consumer data, it will scare its users off. But the social network also knows that by keeping consumers aware of what it is doing and giving them a chance to opt out, it can fundamentally change the way advertisers such as card issuers do business.

"You own your data. It's sharable, but it's yours," says Deepanjan De, client partner for financial services at Facebook. De spoke alongside executives from U.S. Bank and Epsilon at SourceMedia's 2014 Card Forum and Expo in Orlando, Fla., on the topic of how to get the most out of data by keeping customers informed and in control.

The social network helps banks and other advertisers learn about the likes and habits of consumers by providing aggregated, anonymized user data. One unnamed financial services customer was creating a new credit card and chose to completely flip its model based on information from Facebook and Epsilon, a provider of data-driven marketing. Transaction data from Epsilon adds information about consumers' habits offline, De said.

The financial services company, which De did not name, was "planning a large credit card launch... to a target they had never ever worked with before, and so they used our platform to look at that target to actually understand what their interests and likes and dislikes were," he said.

After performing this study, the financial services company tailored its content to meet the target audience's needs.

This was a new approach for this company, De said. "In the past this advertiser always looked at it the other way around," creating the content first and targeting it after the fact, he said.

When people post to the social network, "they generally tend to be their true selves," De said. To maintain trust, Facebook must be as transparent as possible about how it uses consumer data and provide a way to opt out of each type of targeted marketing.

"Information on our platform doesn't leave our platform," he said. "For Facebook, consumer privacy is No. 1 for us. Without enabling privacy, you lose trust."

U.S. Bank is separately developing a program for providing extremely targeted offers delivered in real time, and it will provide consumers an opportunity to set firm rules about when it will contact them.

The program will allow the issuer to contact a cardholder who has just made a purchase and suggest the cardholder use reward points toward the value of that recent purchase. If the consumer accepts the offer, U.S. Bank will apply a credit to the consumer's card statement and deduct the amount from the user's rewards balance.

"Is it relevant? We sure hope it is; you just bought that item," said Bob Daly, senior vice president of FlexPerks Rewards and loyalty management at U.S. Bank.

But it's up to the consumer to determine when these offers arrive. "He might not want to get pinged every time he makes a transaction," Daly said. The user can set certain restrictions, such as blocking offers from being triggered unless a transaction exceeds $50, Daly said.

Consumers are increasingly receptive to such uses of their data, he said. "If you look back 15 years, I recall a pizza delivery company sharing a debate they're having internally about answering the phone with some information about the customer," such as offering a customer the same type of pizza as was previously ordered, he said. "Would that be too intrusive?"

Today, it's understood that a company would remember a customer's last order and provide a way to request it again, he said. "The expectation has changed."

Data must still be used selectively, Daly cautioned. It's not appropriate for a soda machine to send you a text message every time you walk by, but it is appropriate for an airline to give you hotel and car rental information when you land, he said.

Ultimately, any offer has to be actionable, said James Duncan, senior vice president of the financial services portfolio at Epsilon.

He gave the example of banks that would require tellers to ask customers to turn off paper statements, but did not have a process to actually sign up for e-statements from the branch. Customers had to remember to do this when they got home.

But if that same communication takes place digitally, the customer can take action on the spot, Duncan said. "Digital, in any form, is really where you see the most impact" from real-time offers and communication, he said.

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