How to get your data house in order

The Actionable Data Insights Series.

As part of our Actionable Data Insights series, brought to you by Kate Barrett (IDM Tutor/Founder eFocus Marketing) and Pure360 we show a detailed way in how to get your data house in order, how to collect more data as part of your sign-up process, progressive profiling, analysing your data, plus much more.

Once you understand what data you have in each of these areas of your data pyramid you can start to investigate the quality of that data, what’s missing that you’d like/need to have in order to add to your email marketing strategy going forward, and how you’re going to fix any gaps.

Gather the right data in your business

The first place to start is to look at the data that is in your business that you don’t currently have access to.  For example, do you have all of your available ecommerce data feeding into your ESP? Are there analysis fields missing that would allow you to make more sense of this data; for example, working out when a product is likely to run out based on its size and the last order date.

Next, based on what you would like to achieve with your email marketing going forward, identify specific pieces of data that you don’t currently have but would like/need to have going forward.

For example, If you’d like to be able to better identify where prospects and customers are in the customer lifecycle so that you can better target them with content and offers that are sent at the right time to encourage an action, you need to ascertain which pieces of data (across the data pyramid) you’ll need to do this; such as behavioural data (e.g. to identify pages browsed) or purchase data (e.g. has the buyer bought previously and how many times).

Then you need to consider how you will access that information (or of course update it if you only have it partially collected for some of your database). For example…

  1. Known data – decide how you want to ask subscribers for more information. This could be on your initial sign-up form or through progressive profiling, surveys or in-email polls.
  2. Behavioural data – specify what pages, products and actions (for example) you want to track on your website, from previous email campaign interactions or behaviour through other marketing channels.
  3. Purchase data – ensuring your eCommerce platform is recording and feeding through all available data for use in your ESP.
  4. Contextual data – this will most likely require a third-party system to track this type of information, although some ESPs will be able to do this, such as targeting by device.
  5. Cultural data – this involves a much wider database of information and depends on what kind of connections you want to make. For example, if you want to connect different products together (by category, type, relevancy, or upsell/cross-sell options for example), you would need to have this learning mapped in your database.

When it comes to the first group, known data, there are two ways to collect this information from subscribers:

  1. Collecting more data as part of the initial sign-up process

The first step in the subscriber journey is to opt-in to receive your emails. At this point, the most important action is to gain permission to send marketing communications and at least the basic data you need to continue that conversation – primarily their email address. The general rule when it comes to sign-up forms is that the more data you ask for, the fewer people will complete the action; however, those that do give this additional information will be more highly qualified (you will know more about them and are better able to target them with relevant information – you know how close to being your ideal customer they are, for example).

So, with this in mind, you need to consider what you want to collect from the start of the relationship that is going to assist you in creating a personalised, targeted communications strategy.

In most cases, businesses choose to just collect an email address; we would always advise collecting at least the subscriber’s name in addition to this. Including their name in communications helps to build trust from the very first message – personalisation 101.

But it’s also worth considering the following question: ‘What is the business-critical data you need to collect from the start of the relationship?’

For example, if you are a retail company selling clothing, I would consider it business-critical information to ask the subscriber what they are interested in – men’s, women’s or children’s clothing. This information allows you to immediately better target the offers and information you send to them, increasing your relevancy and, in turn, your results.

There are two main types pf sign-up process you can use:

  1. A one-step sign-up process

One form that, when submitted, takes you to a confirmation page and the process is complete.

  1. A two-step or chained sign-up process

This involves submitting the first stage of the form, and then offering the subscriber a secondary form (or series of additional short forms) where they can provide more information. The opt-in is should be recorded after the submission of the first step of the form, and the subsequent stages are voluntary.

With both of these options, it is also worth considering which data is mandatory (for example, email address and name) in order to submit the form, vs. information that is voluntary – this can also help with your form conversion rates.

Remember: only collect the information you NEED

– if you’re not going to use it, don’t collect it.

  1. Progressive profiling

This involves collecting more data about the subscriber as you move through your relationship with them (beyond the sign-up). There are various ways you can do this including:

  • Sending out a subscriber survey

In order to get the most people possible to complete your survey use the following tips:

  • Let people know how long the survey will take – be honest and keep it short! Try and keep it to under 5 minutes to make it as accessible as possible and easy to complete.
  • Tell the subscriber WHY you want them to complete the survey – for example, to help make the email communications you send more relevant to them.
  • Don’t send out a survey too often – if you’re always asking for help, people will be unlikely to complete every request. However, I would recommend checking in with your subscribers once or twice a year to ensure your programme is still interesting, relevant and helpful to them.
  • Make sure you analyse and use the information you receive back from your survey!
  • Consider incentivising responses – not only will this help to increase your completion rate, but you can also use the incentive to drive sales. For example, if you offer a £5 off your next order voucher for completing the survey; the number of people then redeeming this voucher will be higher than if the voucher was offered generally as they have had to take an action and complete a task to actually get it – making it seem more valuable.
  • Using interactive email design you can now even have subscribers complete your questions and submit them from directly within your emails (without having to click through and visit a landing page); this makes the process quicker, easier, removes a click barrier and makes the process more transparent and accessible (note: interactive email features will not work in all email clients).

Rate and Review


  • Using in-email polls

This is a very shortened version of a survey consisting of just one question asked right within the email content. The answer options given will be individually tracked links so that depending on which one is clicked, this can be recorded accordingly as the subscriber’s answer.

This option offers a really quick way to get feedback on an individual aspect of your programme such as a specific email type or offer.


  • Offering a preference centre

A preference centre offers subscribers the chance to update their personal information (known data) and make choices about the communications they receive from you. It allows you to:

  • increase data known about subscribers in order to provide a more personalised, relevant experience.
  • offer choice in communication preferences – let them have more control over what they receive from you and when, to suit their needs and interests.
  • this could include allowing them to take control of the timing of the emails they receive; such as offering a digest email option for those subscribers who do not want to receive emails more than once a week/month or allowing them to take a break from communications for two weeks/one month/two months whilst on holiday, for example.
  • provide an alternative to a complete unsubscribe for those who may be choosing to stop receiving emails for reasons that are within your control to change – such as email frequency or type of content they are receiving from you.
  • offer different communications options to expand your marketing reach – for example, gain opt-ins for email/post/SMS communications.
  • remind subscribers of the benefits of receiving emails from you.

Don’t forget to ask only for information you will use to personalise your communications and offers going forward! Ensure you make the options simple to understand and the benefits of giving the additional information easy to ascertain.

Last Minute

Analysing Your Data

Utilising technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make it easier to spot trends, understand correlations and help brands and serve content which meets a need the subscriber didn’t even know they had yet!


(Salesforce 5th State of Marketing research)

Artificial intelligence for email marketing has been used to some degree for many years; when you’re A/B testing and you allocate a winner automatically based on open or click rate, for example, this is a form of artificial intelligence in action. But here for personalisation, we want to take it to the next level and use technology to analyse the data from our data pyramid to come up with content/product/service suggestions based on the amalgamation of many different data points and what is likely to be the next best action for that specific individual.

Opportunities for AI in email could include:

  • Creating ready-made reports in natural language that tell you exactly what the data means that you get back from your campaigns.
  • Automating tasks and sending campaigns based on predictive technology
  • Analysing content, trending data, user behaviour and more to understand your users and deliver personalised experiences and messaging relevant to them; with personalised subject lines, content blocks, images, links, offers and much more!
  • Sending personalised product / service recommendations based on specific details around the users last purchase – e.g. not just sending more shoe ideas because someone bought a pair of shoes, but specific product recommendations based on the size, colour, shape, heel size, comfort level and other details.
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t faster than a human ever could – speeding up the testing process exponentially.

Download our cheatsheet and start your data audit today and help supercharge your email strategy.



By bringing the knowledge you have of your data to a higher level, you give yourself more power to better target, segment and trigger relevant emails to send the right message, to the right person at the right time (through the right channel); increasing your customer-centric, personalised approach to email marketing and boosting your results.

Within the next part of our Actionable Data Insights series, we look at how to understand your numbers to ensure success, going into detail about areas such as understanding your objectives, ensuring your objectives are SMART, your campaign metrics, plus more.

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