New Software Stores Customer Data on Customer's Computer

Imagine the privacy implications of this scenario: You can see into your customers' credit card statements. You know when and where they bought their last pair of shoes, for example, and how much they paid. You know whether or not they have a mortgage, and for how much, whether they buy baby clothes or go out to dinner at fancy restaurants. Then, based on this customer profile, you can precisely target your marketing messages to just the right person for your product. And they, if they so choose, can click on a link to your site, which appears in their online credit card statement.

Though the idea may seem great to marketers, from the consumer point of view such a scenario is a gross breach of trust. Not at all, says Jay Dean, vice president of marketing for Encirq. The company, which is just exiting a two-year development period, makes a data engine that delivers these targeted marketing messages based on an individual's buying habits--without yielding consumer information to marketers or even to Encirq itself. The company does this by keeping all data processing, data management and data analysis on the consumer's personal computer.

Here's how it works. Encirq's technology creates what the company calls an "illuminated statement" for online banking customers. The technology improves the typical online credit card statement by adding merchants' logos and links to their Web sites. If users click on the logo, they can go to the merchant's site. If they click on the credit card sum, they will get the address and contact information for the merchant. If they have a problem with the bill, they can e-mail the merchant's customer service department right then and there. Each time consumers access their statements, the Encirq applet is downloaded to their browser. The applet categorizes their purchases and creates their profile, which gets better over time. Marketers have multiple messages stored on Encirq's server. The consumer's PC pulls in the relevant messages, based on the user's profile.

Encirq is marketing its solution through banks to begin with, and beta testing with the Bank of Hawaii started in June. According to Encirq research, when banks offer this service--which is free to the customer--79 percent of people say they'll opt in.

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