About a week ago I wrote a post called RSS Feed v.s. Email - Just A Lightweight Bout Part 1, so I figured I'd follow-up this week with part 2. About 2 years ago or so (they all start to blend in together now), my COO and head legal council at Harrisdirect called me into his office. Mike was concerned about the new anti-spam laws and the requirements surrounding .ADV being in the subject line. Mike muttered at the end of the meeting "we'll have to figure out how to get around using email" because it will be nearly impossible to push it out due to phishing. Phishing? UGH. What the heck is that?
Phishing is a huge problem for financial services companies. All you need is some rat to grab a copy of your email, change the links, and redirect to a site where they grab your login information and then use it to say, withdraw money. And, because of phishing, every time there is a problem with your email delivery you end up scrambling to make sure you weren't phished. I actually had a way around communicating with customers by dropping a cookie on them when they logged into the site and then when my ad server BlueStreak saw them on our internet advertising buy, we would serve them retention banner ads instead of acquisition ads. Mike Hogan, our COO, gave me a look that told me "that's clever, but now go figure something else out."
FAST FORWARD TO A REAL LIFE PROBLEM
Well, we continued down the email path right until E*trade acquired us, so I'm not privy to their current plans. However, one of my financial services clients does not send out emails to a significant part of their client base because of phishing concerns. So, when they sent me the internal documents, I thought to myself, hmmm maybe there is something to this RSS thing. Plus, how do you take advantage of customers who want to communicate in this manner?
So, I started sniffing around and rummaged through very old blogs and techie documents and eventually stumbled across SimpleFeed which is a company started by Mark Carlson (relax Mark, I'm only referring to information found on your website!!). With SimpleFeed you can publish information your clients want and use a template to make them look like your website. Plus, you can make the transaction secure and authenticate it eliminating SPAM and Phishing. Plus, by using SimpleFeed you can track it just like it was an email. Looks like a great product to me. I love the fact that the product can make RSS feeds look like an email or your webpage; plus, the security features make it very attractive to financial services companies.
OK, SO YOU HAVE A TOOL, NOW WHAT?
What are the problems keeping marketers from using RSS? Well, a couple of things. First of all it is the low penetration which a lot of folks think will grow. So, what should you do? How about just implement it on a few pages where the information is updated frequently? In order to do that, you need to come up with a naming convention. Sure people recognize the RSS icon, but the majority of folks wouldn't even know to click on it. I'd suggest something like your company name:NewsFeeds or InfoFeeds or Feeds. So, if Harrisdirect was still in business, I'd put a link next to the RSS icon and call it Harrisdirect:InfoFeeds. When someone clicked on the link, I'd jump them to a page where they could check off the feeds they were interested in and then link them to a page where they would choose from a variety of popular RSS readers.
Next problem would be the look and feel of the feed and the security question. That's where SimpleFeed's platform would come into play. You could use one of their templates and create a great looking feed that would look like a webpage or even an email. Plus, you could even use the feed for cross-selling. Don't think you could handle it? How about checking out Lillian Vernon's RSS feed?
Do I think email will be replaced by RSS? Hardly, but it is complimentary. It is much easier to pound through a few hundred RSS feeds than a few hundred emails. However, I believe secure RSS feeds have a strong position in the marketplace especially in transactional businesses like financial services, online banking, and retail. And, with phishing concerns not going away, it looks like RSS could be the real deal.