Is Nordstrom’s Data-Retentiveness A Sign Of Trouble For CRM?

Written by Frank Hayes
December 5th, 2012

The fight over customer data just keeps getting nastier. Nordstrom has now joined Gap and as retailers who no longer cooperate with an Intuit service that lets customers aggregate all their bank and payment-card balances so they can manage their money better.

This data-retentiveness puts these chains in a tricky position. Every retailer wants large quantities of CRM information from customers. Telling those same customers they don’t have control over information about their store-branded credit-card accounts (as in, customers can access it themselves but can’t have an aggregator collect it for them) risks turning the image of chains from a friendly retailer to that of a paranoid Big Brother—especially as chains start behaving more like banks.

The issue is with, an Intuit service that lets customers pull together all their account balances from multiple banks and credit-card issuers onto a single PC screen. Customers sign up for the service and give Mint their logins and passwords for each account. Mint then collects and regularly updates the information for each account.

According to the New York Times, Nordstrom (which issues its own cards) notified customers last month by E-mail that it would no longer let access the account information. Nordstrom said it would “explore a variety of options for online financial management services,” according to the E-mail.

GE Capital, which issues cards for Amazon and Gap, has already pulled the plug on Mint’s ability to access those retailers’ customer accounts, citing security concerns. Nordstrom wasn’t specific about why it cut off the service, except to say that there were costs associated with supporting the service.

To be clear, this might be mainly about money or competition. Maybe Nordstrom and GE Capital just want to be paid a fee when Mint accesses a customer account. Or maybe the card issuers hope eventually to compete with Intuit with their own money-management offerings. In any case, it’s not the retailer who is pulling the plug—it’s the card-issuing bank (in Nordstrom’s case, that’s a bank owned by the chain).

But that’s not who customers will blame. They’ll blame the store whose name is on the card.

After all, customers know that retailers want data about them. Retailers collect it directly, from third parties, through loyalty programs and POS transactions—pretty much any way they can. Sometimes they’re legally required to get the customer’s permission to collect and use the data. And the usual boilerplate in retailer privacy policies says that even though customers can’t actually get access to that data, the data still belongs to the customer (although bankruptcy courts for Borders and other dead chains beg to differ).

Customers also know that they do have access to their account balances.


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