The email marketer’s guide to improving data quality Data quality can mean different things to different businesses. For some, data is all about ensuring customer contact details are correct for delivery. For others, they need more in-depth data regarding purchases and behaviour to inform their marketing activity. At its core, quality data is data that is fit for its intended purpose. And in a world where businesses are increasingly reliant on data to provide their customers with the best experience possible, these purposes are becoming vast. Not only this, the key requirements of GDPR involve not only data consent, usage and security, but also its accuracy. Under GDPR it is essential that all businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure data accuracy and must also document the steps they have taken to ensure this. That’s why it’s important for businesses to improve their data quality from the very start. We have put together this guide to help businesses understand the importance of data, the challenges with data, and how they can directly improve the quality of their data. For brands and businesses, better starts here. The importance of data Before you learn how to improve your data, we want to introduce you to the importance of data for businesses. To help you truly understand why great data quality is key to results. Understand your audience One of the main reasons why data is so important for businesses is that it offers them a more in-depth understanding of their audience. This could include demographics and location, or purchasing and browsing behaviours. This type of data enables businesses to understand what their audience wants, which has endless benefits. For instance, they can optimise their sales and marketing activity to be highly targeted and improve the customer experience. Amongst many other benefits which we go on to explore. Optimise databases Databases are essential for businesses to manage their leads, prospects, and customers. Businesses can collect data such as email addresses, phone numbers, business names, first names, and IP addresses to improve the quality of contact details that they hold in their database. This means that businesses have more accurate and reliable information when they choose to reach out to these contacts for lead generation, nurturing, or retention purposes. Improve marketing One of our favourite benefits of quality data is how much it can improve marketing strategy and activity. In a competitive environment where many businesses and brands are trying to build business back to normal, marketing is more important than ever. With the use of quality data, marketers will be able to establish everything about how their products, campaigns, and tactics are performing. And how their consumers are responding. This leads to much more effective segmentation and targeting of future campaigns. And the understanding of their audience that businesses receive from data can help them to build their ideal customer persona to further improve their marketing activity. Making sure it is as targeted as possible. Offer personalised communications Similarly, personalisation is key to great marketing activity. 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalisation tactics. And in a competitive environment, businesses really need to utilise personalisation to stand out from the crowd. Quality data is absolutely key to personalisation. It enables businesses to utilise first names, products purchased, pages browsed, location, and much more. All to improve their communications and marketing activities. The amount of personalised marketing that can be conducted is vast. From simple first name or birthday personalisation, to recommended products and abandoned basket campaigns. Data enables marketers to get truly creative. Challenges with data Unfortunately, quality data doesn’t come easy. In fact, it can come with various complications and challenges which are important to be aware of from the very start. Data integration It’s common within many businesses for data to sit within multiple systems, platforms, and sources. There are CRMs, ERPs, CMSs, finance systems, and even old-fashioned paper documentation. This can cause data to become inconsistent, inaccessible, duplicated, and disconnected For data to remain consistent and of high quality, it needs to be integrated and held in one centralised place and recorded in the same manner and format. This may mean going through the process of data cleansing, and identifying and eliminating the factors that are causing discrepancies in the data. Meaningful KPIs Selecting the right KPIs to track will help businesses to manage their data effectively, and collect the most quality data. By choosing too many KPIs to monitor, businesses can soon become overwhelmed by data. Losing track of it and inputting it incorrectly. To ensure they are tracking meaningful KPIs, businesses should consider the following: High-level goals and strategic focus areas (SFAs) The data points that contribute to these goals Tracking and evaluation strategy for these KPIs Refreshing outdated KPIs with new ones By identifying and acting on the above, brands can streamline their KPIs and ensure they are not duplicating work or data. Actionable data Another key requirement of quality data is that it is usable and actionable. Else businesses are wasting time, energy, and resource on gathering and managing it. If there isn’t a clear use for specific data a business is gathering, and there isn’t a clear next step to actioning it, they have to ask if it is actually quality data. Actionable data, on the other hand, helps businesses to identify patterns, correlations, and relationships between different data sets. It will help businesses to understand what consumers actually want. And what the business needs to do to achieve a positive ROI. Poor tools and software Last but not least, the tools and software that a business uses to manage their data can cause a major hurdle if they are not good enough. They can be the cause of many of the challenges we raised above. And can result in quality data becoming useless due to poor management. Instead, marketers need to invest in technology that enables them to manage and access their data from one single source. One that the entire business can use to input, manage, and utilise data effectively. And integrate with wider business systems. Steps to improving data quality We’ve discussed why data is important, and the challenges you may come across with collecting and managing data. Let’s now delve into the really important step – improving the quality of your data. Capturing data When it comes to quality data, the best place to start is getting it correct from the very beginning. This means asking the right questions to capture the right data, often with the use of data capture forms. Some tips to improve this process include: Keep it simple Don’t overwhelm the user with lots of unnecessary questions. Keep it short and sweet, focusing on the essentials. Ask the right questions For instance first name and surname, or specify if you’d like a personal or professional email address. Utilise auto-population in key fields This will help to decrease the likelihood of form abandonment or typing mistakes. Incorporate essential fields Ensuring the user has to include specific details, such as their email address or first name. Split forms into steps This is instead of asking all the questions in one long form, and ensures you capture the key data at the start. Reducing the chances of the user becoming bored or distracted Trigger abandoned form emails These emails aim to encourage recipients back to finish and submit their form. Once businesses have succeeded with the above steps and their forms are collecting quality data, this will reduce the need to intervene and cleanse data later down the line. Consent Ask for consent. This should be clear to the reader and unbundled. Make it very clear as to what they are consenting to. For our full guide on GDPR please click here. Entering data For data that is not automatically captured, it will need to be entered manually. And unfortunately, this is where errors can occur. Incomplete or inaccurate data entry will quickly affect the quality of data that can be utilised. And for many departments, the data that they are focused on entering may not be the most important data for other departments. For instance, a sales team may be more interested in a telephone number, so omit an email address. Whereas for a marketing team, the email address is essential. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls: Add required fields Similar to adding these fields in data capture forms, ensure they are included in your CRM or data management tool so that employees have to fill them in as well. Offer internal training To ensure that every employee of the business is entering data in the same format and using the same process, to avoid inconsistencies. Manually checking data Manually checking through data can be a significant project for businesses who have thousands of contacts. So it’s a practice that’s best executed right from the start. Or otherwise, be broken down into more manageable, regular chunks. Checking data is particularly important for marketers who require email addresses and names to execute email campaigns and basic personalisation. Therefore, they should aim to: Correct any mistakes Such as spelling or typing errors, for instance in the first name or email address. Identify inconsistencies Such as whether the contact’s name doesn’t match their email address. Ensure consistent formatting Such as spacing and capitalisation, to avoid emails looking unprofessional. Identify duplicate data Duplicate data can often be identified by email addresses. However, sometimes it can be tricky to find all duplicates using this method. This type of data can be confusing for sales teams and cause issues within marketing automation. So therefore it’s best to identify duplicates as soon as possible, often simply deleting the record before it has history associated with it. If filtering email addresses isn’t cutting it, businesses can run regular reports which record duplicates, enabling them to investigate the cause further. For instance, it could be due to human error, or an issue with the lead capture form or CRM. By identifying the cause businesses can fix the issue and ensure their data stays cleaner moving forward. Removing bounces Similarly, marketers should keep an eye on emails that are regularly bouncing for specific recipients in their database. Bounces can have a damaging effect on email performance. In fact, the more bounces a business receives, the more vulnerable they become to internet service providers (ISPs) and spam-fighting organisations. Bounces can be for multiple reasons, such as: Misspelling or typo in email address Email account has been shut down Deactivation of an account If there isn’t a clear mistake in the email address, you may choose to remove an account after one bounce. Or alternatively, try a couple of resends just to make sure. Managing non-engaged contacts There will be recipients in your database who are active, have accurate data, and haven’t unsubscribed from your communications. But still don’t open your emails. These recipients will gradually drag email results down. Fortunately, there are multiple tactics that can be used to manage these users: Send less emails Instead of including these recipients in all of your email campaigns, consider adding them to a list with occasional nurturing emails, or even a dedicated list for disengaged users. If they begin engaging, you can always move them to a more active list. Send a re-engagement campaign Reach out to the recipient through a re-engagement campaign. This could include a discount code to encourage them back to your website. Or simply ask them if they no longer want to hear from you moving forward. Preference centre update Similarly, maybe the recipient wants to hear from you less, or hear about different topics. By encouraging them to update their preference centre, they can tailor your communications to fit them. Remove them from your list We wouldn’t advocate immediately removing a contact from your list without trying to re-engage with them first. But if all efforts fail, it may be time to say goodbye. Make the most of technology The amount of data that many businesses today hold can quickly become overwhelming. Often, manual management isn’t enough, particularly when a business wishes to use their data in a more sophisticated way. That’s why using the right technology for data management is essential. This could include addressing the single point of where data is stored, such as a CRM. Or, the integrations that bring all of your data together. By utilising the correct technologies and integrations, businesses can: Save time and resource by automatically updating data across multiple systems Automate marketing tasks and campaigns Improve data insights Boost the personalisation and targeting of marketing campaigns Deliver cross-channel marketing Automate simple tasks, such as importing data into spreadsheets The benefits of good technology are vast. And also essential for modern businesses. Don’t forget you can always speak to us for more help and advice on systems and integrations. Do you want to improve your data quality? At Pure360 we are experienced in gathering, integrating, managing, cleansing, and utilising data. Our all-in-one AI email and web marketing platform ensures that you can get the very most from your data to inform all aspects of your marketing and communications. Get in touch with our team of experts to find out more.