This post was originally published on Relevance.com.
As marketers, we crave information. From dashboards of analytics exposing the success (or lack thereof) of our latest campaign to our beloved customer database, chock-full of nearly everything we need to build dynamic and engaging campaigns, the more data we can access, the better our outcomes.
We can use many types of data to create more relevant experiences for our prospects. While demographics – age, gender, geographic location and income—provide context around what is most likely to interest a subscriber, behavioral information shows what they’ve actually done in the past. By combining the datasets, a marketer (and an analytics engine) can best direct future recommendations to optimize engagement. There’s just one tiny challenge: it’s difficult to capture data from various sources. Linking behavioral data isn’t always easy.
Enter the hashed email—the hexadecimal string that links you, the marketer, to all the places your prospects have gone on the web, without compromising their privacy.
Some of you may know email hashing as the thing Facebook does to your Custom Audiences lists prior to uploading them to its servers. And a select few of you probably read the title for this post, started craving hash browns and are currently en route for the nearest diner.
In simplest terms, a hashed email is an address that has been converted into a string of numbers and letters that, to the naked eye, looks like someone fell asleep on their keyboard. Every email address has one hexadecimal string for its entire life. Each time you log into something—your social media accounts, your fantasy football league, Amazon—a hashing algorithm converts your email into this unrecognizable code.
For marketers, hashed emails are like an audience’s passports. Like cookies, it allows you to access data about how your subscribers behave online. But unlike cookies, it tracks behavior across devices. And the only way anyone could ever connect a hashed email to an email address is if they have that address in their database.
When you’re creating content for your audience—whether it’s a blog post, an email or a retargeting campaign—you want to make sure the piece of content makes an impact. You want to ensure it’s engaging and drives customers to interact with your brand. The best way to provide such an experience is to understand how your customers engage with your brand across channels and tie that information with the data you already have on that customer.
In other words, hashed email allows you to create a more complete dossier of each customer. Whether a customer makes a purchase from their desktop, from their mobile device or gives their email address to a cashier at a retail outlet, you can capture and marry together all of this data. This complete profile of online and offline activity allows you to better personalize the experience for your customers.
The best part about hashed email is it typically doesn’t require you to obtain anything new. Everything you need to begin connecting the dots on your customers’ online behavior—and creating personalized content that converts—is already in your database.