At first glance, hashed email appears to offer the same advantages as cookies — yet, cookies can be blocked
More than three in four marketers (77%) report that email engagement has increased over the past year according to data collected by the customer relationship management (CRM) platform HubSpot. While obtaining your patients’ emails enables you to send service or product offers and updates directly to their inboxes, there is another way to use their email addresses in your marketing efforts: hashed email.
What is hashed email?
A hashed email is an email that has been encrypted with a hexadecimal string of numbers and letters. This string gives the email address a unique identifier code, also sometimes called a digital signature. This code or signature doesn’t change, even if the email user logs in from a different location or device.
The identifier code for hashed emails can vary in length. Some are strings of 32 characters and others are 40 or 64 characters long. These codes are a mixture of lowercase letters and numbers. For instance, if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, your email hash may look something like this: cs982i6cw4e74v52.
Hashed email marketing benefits
Assigning a digital signature to a specific email address is a way for chiropractic providers to learn more about their patient base, albeit anonymously. It provides an inside look at the actions they take online, which helps improve your understanding of what social media sites they use, where they shop over the internet, and a variety of other online actions.
Hashed emails can provide this data because, for many online accounts, the login is the user’s email address. Giving their email a unique identifier code allows you to follow their digital trail.
With this data in hand, you can devise a marketing campaign with greater effectiveness. This might involve advertising on websites that your target patients frequent. It also gives you the opportunity to address issues that seem to be of concern to your patients based on where they go online.
Hashing versus cookies
At first glance, hashed emails appear to offer the same advantages as cookies. Yet, cookies can be blocked. Plus, the information provided by cookies doesn’t transcend across multiple digital devices.
For instance, if your patient goes online with their desktop in the morning, their laptop while at work, and their mobile device at lunchtime, each of these has a separate cookie trail. This isn’t the case with email hashing.
Because the unique identifier is tied to their email address versus a device, you can follow your patient’s online path no matter what type of electronics they are using or where they are using them from.
How to hash your email list
Numerous online platforms offer email hashing. To use them, you may have to pre-format your email list. This may involve making sure each of your patient’s emails is in lowercase text, which is important because the hashing functions can be case-sensitive.
Formatting your email list may also require removing any extra characters or spaces on your list. For instance, if you separate your emails by a comma and a space, these might need to be removed. Instead, you could be asked to place your emails in a single-column list.
Some platforms might request that the emails be placed in a .csv file, which is a text file in which you separate each email address with a comma. Once your emails are formatted as requested, you can upload them to the platform and continue with the hashing process.
If all these steps sound complicated, another option is to work with a marketing firm that offers email hashing services. This makes it possible to enjoy the benefits of hashed emails without having to figure out how to incorporate this marketing method into your practice.
Whether you hash your patient’s emails yourself or hire this function out, ensuring that the hash is secure is critical to protecting private data.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology recommends using the SHA-256 hashing function, at a minimum. SHA stands for secure hash algorithm and 256 represents a digest size of 256 bits. SHA-256 is encompassed within the SHA-2 category of hash functions and is among the most-used hash algorithms.
“Email marketers can use hashed email addresses to gain insights about their customers without intruding on their privacy,” summarizes Suryanarayan Pal of MailModo. “Since email is used everywhere from streaming platforms, online games, shopping websites, and business software, it can give you insight into your customers like no other. You can determine your users’ spending habits, favorite social media platforms, favorite TV shows, etc., and personalize your marketing efforts accordingly.”