Mandar Shinde, Blotout: “customer data needs to be secured and solely managed by the sites or apps they visit”

The marketing sector is currently facing difficult challenges, such as society’s increased privacy awareness, growth in advertising costs, and more.

Data is rather the main mass of the internet. Additionally, it’s a valuable marketing asset, especially if it’s used the correct way. Nevertheless, there are more factors to consider when creating online advertising campaigns than just taking advantage of user data.

To find out more about how one's personal data can be used as a marketing tool, the Cybernews team has reached out to Mandar Shinde, the CEO, and Co-Founder of Blotout.

Tell us about your journey throughout the years. How did the idea of Blotout originate?

I have been on the technology side of advertising and marketing growth businesses for 20 years, and each has come a long way with the idea that data just flows via cookies anywhere that is pertinent. At Brave was the first realization that having barcodes on our kids' foreheads may not be a good way to the future. And while enterprises may need to catalog their users for their business, there needs to be inherent trust between parties - not levied by the Apple or Googles of the world, but chosen between a customer and their trusted brand.

Somewhere along the way, my then 11-year-old asked a fundamental question – why do sites use so many trackers, not just for advertising but for everything. That is where Blotout began. I realized that consumer awareness of privacy would be game-changing – i.e. blotting out of trackers.

The original idea was very fundamental – what would an enterprise have to do to be more private, trustworthy, and yet be able to deliver business continuity.

Can you tell us a little bit about your customer data platform? What are the main challenges you help navigate?

Blotout is a modern data infrastructure that helps businesses amplify their marketing ROI by restoring customer identity and data accuracy in the post-cookie world. In the era of cookieless, we enable customers to catalog their users with a lifetime ID, move away from JavaScript trackers, and will allow them to share consented data via APIs. APIs ensure that the two parties interacting with each have a shared user that consents to signals between them.

Meanwhile, the large walled gardens – Google, Facebook, Snap, etc. all have gone in the same direction of developing APIs so customers can deliver signals required to continue growing their business but without data spillage and more critically, with consumer consent.

We have an innovative CDN-based product for the mass market that replicates existing CDP functionality but at a fraction of the cost and 2 times better at performance due to the advent of the fast compute and storage abilities at the network edge.

In our cloud offering for customers who want to develop a Customer 360 asset, we build self-provisioned, single-tenant, and fully managed customer data lakes and deploy them anywhere in the world within minutes; so our customers are the only ones controlling and processing their customer’s data, unlike traditional CDPs. We strongly believe that commerce, DTC, and SaaS engines should build trust by managing their data and keeping it within their operating region for compliance.

What would you consider the main practices companies should follow to strengthen their relationships with their customers?

  • Single Tenant & Secure
I strongly believe that customer data needs to be secured and solely managed by the sites or apps a customer visits; and while capabilities and cost make it hard to achieve such goals, we are making it even more accessible. This makes data more secure and less vulnerable to attacks like we have seen in the news with multi-tenant systems.

  • Data integrity and Accuracy
Customers need to check the accuracy of their data – the changes Apple, Firefox, etc. have made have broken SaaS systems from Google Analytics to Facebook pixels, etc. Without accurate data, it is hard to measure, attribute and optimize your business. With fragmentation in identity (cookieless) impacting Apple devices (1B users), data across SaaS silos is now entirely fragmented and it has impacted growth/attribution significantly.

  • Customer data lake/asset
Finally, customers need to build their data assets to utilize and monetize them. Most marketing activation engines are built to use this data. Companies that lack this competency will find it hard to scale their operations.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new features added to your product as a result?

Covid accelerated the workstreams for everyone and consumers became more privacy-aware. Finally, recent global events have put growth on shaky grounds as advertising costs increase. Adding on top of that are privacy changes Apple made last year which continues to increase the cost of growth.

For a company that drives performance-based sales (we help reduce the cost of acquisition), a lot has been recession-proof, besides investor funding of course.

In your opinion, what are some of the worst mistakes companies tend to make when it comes to handling large amounts of customer data?

Data Silos

There is a point in time where investments in more SaaS products to solve problems get negative returns. Without the ability to invest in a source of truth for your sales and marketing, the ROI on SaaS investments starts to go down, and with privacy changes, that investment gets further degraded. Any SaaS using Javascript (cross tracking script) or 3P cookies is now missing 50% of valuable audiences. Worse, as identity breaks with cookieless, customers are now investing in products that have no return at all.

Yet, they continue to make investments on the next best thing that can help hack a situation vs. investing in their customer data lakes and managing it themselves, which has no data fragmentation and remains the universal source of truth.

What are some of the most common issues new online business owners face nowadays?

Most of this is pretty well documented; the #1 issue that every single Commerce, DTC, SaaS, or any other business that lives off internet/advertising is facing is the cost of acquisition. With more competition and breakage in identity, most of the internet that thrives on marketing for growth is getting minimal margin on their spending.

And as recession kicks in, money becomes more expensive (inflation and interest rates), and that problem further exacerbates these enterprises.

Keeping up with compliance and privacy policy requirements can sometimes be complicated. What details do you think are often overlooked by organizations?

Most organizations today operate across geographies and jurisdictions. This means that their privacy and compliance obligations (and hence liabilities) are likely to vary on a zonal basis.

The prevailing approach is to present a single policy and hopes it addresses global exposure, but a much better strategy is to develop the flexibility – at the point of data capture, to work within any jurisdictional framework.

Organizations that do this have many advantages. Their compliance risks decrease. More importantly, their ability to capture data and engage their users goes up because they can tailor their approaches (asking for consent at the appropriate level of granularity, etc.).

Finally, few organizations today are questioning their existing marketing technology stacks for their appropriateness in a privacy-first world.

This is a mistake. The third-party/SaaS model — where customer data gets sent to providers (e.g., analytics) — runs counter to how privacy norms are being shaped. Organizations that stick to this model will increasingly find themselves treated as bad actors while losing considerable amounts of data, with the resulting performance consequences.

Newer models are emerging that let companies capture customer data and consent, and tailor activation on an appropriate basis.

Talking about cybersecurity, what would you consider to be the best practices organizations should follow nowadays?

Today, there is a lot of focus on Enterprise malware, attack scenarios, and anonymizing enterprise PII. However, the same data flows from these large enterprises into other platforms freely and enterprises treat sales and marketing data as secondary to security. The other topic is storing customer data in multi-tenant third-party systems where a single breach exposes multiple clients at the same time. This is a very exposed and vulnerable setup to have.

Enterprises should start owning their customer data, and ensure consent is mapped to this data so that it can be shared via APIs vs. throwing scripts and SDKs that collect tracking data even before consent is in play. And then enterprises should have all of this data in a single-tenant system where only they have control over how data is collected, stored, processed, and shared.

And finally, what’s next for Blotout?

We want to replace how companies run their sites and apps by ensuring those are treated similarly to how they treat the VPC/VPN. By enabling enterprises to own their data collection and replication infrastructure, and apply local laws on the fly, we provide an independent infrastructure framework that runs globally on existing CDN and Cloud players but without over-reliance on Big Tech like Google or Twilio.

For us, we are winning with our customers by providing globally compliant software that democratizes data for our customers and still beats their growth stack. We want to accelerate the adoption that drives privacy by design while enabling compliance and business continuity at scale.

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