Does Your Bank Tap Its Dark Data?

By Ernie Crawford

As a bank marketer, you know that effectively mining customer data is the key to creating highly targeted and personalized customer communications. While some of that data resides in relatively easy-to-access structured databases, much of it—upwards of 80-85%—is unstructured data, locked away in siloed systems purpose-built for customer service, regulatory compliance, and customer self-service access.

These siloed systems work well to provide a repository of proprietary print files and document images. But they do not allow a bank to capitalize on the valuable data contained within them because that information, maintained in presentation formats, has historically been difficult to extract and analyze.

What is “dark data”?

Dark data refers to specific points of information that are essentially unseen and often forgotten—at least in terms of accessibility and usability for business intelligence and process improvement.

Such data can include:

  • Payment amounts
  • Products purchased
  • Dates
  • Addresses

Gaining insights from these data points of the past is the best way to predict what will happen in the future.

If you have an effective strategy to extract this dark data so that it can be analyzed, you’ll gain an extremely valuable source of customer information that can be used to greatly enhance the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.

Credit card data serves as a prime example.

Most bank credit card statements follow a familiar format, with a header containing general account information such as the customer name and address, as well as the balance owed and minimum amount due. The remainder of the statement is a list of purchases presented in columnar format. While there are specific regulations concerning how long these statements must be maintained by the bank, in many cases they are simply kept perpetually—in case they are ever needed for legal or other reasons.

Leveraging this data, banks can obtain granular information on specific customers as well as customer segments. For example, if the data shows that a new mortgage customer is making a large number of home-related purchases, that information may support a high probability that they would be interested in a cross-sell offer of a home equity line of credit. That is just one example.

The opportunities to be gained from dark data insights on demographic, geographic location, and other segments, or about individual customers, are virtually limitless.  Knowledge workers would be able to specify a set of historical documents from which data could be extracted from thousands or even millions of invoices, statements, bills, reports, and other documents.

Shedding light on dark data.

If it can be extracted, dark data represents a treasure trove of information on customer spending habits and interactions with your bank that can be thoroughly analyzed by your bank’s marketing analytics software. And over the past several years, advancements in technology have taken the extraction process for unstructured data from nearly impossible to relatively easy to do.

A step beyond content management systems.

Content management systems excel at managing, storing, and outputting information. But they do not provide an efficient way to assemble documents from disparate repositories in a way that can easily be analyzed and understood. However, advanced solutions now exist that can shed light on dark data no matter where it is stored within the organization.

When looking at potential solutions to extract dark data for marketing analysis, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it integrate with the bank’s marketing analytics software?
  • Can it quickly process vast amounts of data and render it in a usable format?
  • Is it accessible for marketers and other line-of-business users?
  • Can it load the raw data into a database that can be used for ad hoc queries?
  • Does it enable select fields to be masked so that customer privacy can be maintained?
  • Does it work with the bank’s existing marketing analytics tools to create an end-to-end solution that enhances marketing initiatives and the customer experience?

Every banking organization has collected and continues to collect a staggering amount of data on its customers. Going forward, banks will need a strategy for extracting dark data and converting it into an analyzable format. That will enable them to move away from guessing about which offers and marketing initiatives customers will find most appealing. It’s now possible to make those decisions based upon factual data about customers’ actual buying behaviors.

An electronic document industry pioneer, Ernie Crawford is president/CEO and founder of Crawford Technologies. One of only a small number people worldwide with M-EDP (Master Electronic Document Professional) designation, Ernie has more than 30 years of senior marketing and management experience in the high-volume electronic printing market.