Seasonal clean: strategies for keeping your business’ data prim and proper
In the so-called ‘digital age’, if knowledge is power, data is its currency.
According to a 2009 report published by US market research firm IDC, a whopping 487 billion gigabytes of stored digital content was created in 2008 (up 73% on the previous year and a figure predicted to have doubled every 18 months after that).
This acceleration in volume growth and the resulting complexity of saved data raises questions as to how individual companies can ensure the rock-solid effectiveness of their own enterprise database ‘assets’, in terms of avoiding duplication and information redundancy as well as ensuring accuracy.
Iris Brinkman, principal consultant at Techno Marketing, a Melbourne-based marketing services firm offering a range of solutions including cleansing, formatting and standardising client data, says a data cleansing strategy or road map should consider multiple factors, including implementing data entry standards for anyone in the company adding data to the contact database, as well as building as much data entry validation into database systems and online web forms as possible.
She says designing web forms to make it as clear as possible what information is being asked for in each field and taking into account different cultural backgrounds, languages and postal standards is also important.
“Another common mistake is to have a city and postcode field. Consequently, people tend to add a city such as Melbourne or Sydney and then add a postcode for the suburb, and if they do not live or work in the CBD then you immediately have an incorrect address.”
Dave Audley, head of research at information services company Experian, says he also sees organisations continually being challenged by conflicting data. “This may be due to the sheer volume of data flowing into an organisation, coupled with the increasing number of points of data capture – for example online, in-store and mobile,” he says.
“It can also occur because organisations tend to hold onto old data from a historical perspective or legacy information as acquisitions.”
The solution according to Brinkman is the relentless and ongoing pursuit of what some techies call ‘data hygiene’.
“In order to keep data up-to-date, it is important for data maintenance activities to be scheduled on a regular basis,” she says.
“How often this is scheduled depends on how fast the data becomes out-of-date. This can vary by industry, and whether or not the company has procedures in place to clean data before it goes into the database and respond to triggers such as email bounces or returned mail.
“The rule of thumb I use with B2B clients is with no data maintenance activities they should assume 25% of the contacts in their database are out-of-date with the contact no longer reachable after one year. Depending on budgets and importance of the data, l might recommend a data cleansing project is implemented at least once a quarter.
Another approach is to have your data cleaned just prior to any major campaign.”
According to Audley, there are four dimensions to ensuring data cleanliness: data accuracy, data completeness, data relevance and data currency.
“By addressing all of these parts – ensuring that consumer details are correct, complete and up-to-date – means valuable insights can be gleaned from data to inform business strategy.”
Other tips from Brinkman include: allocating budget for resources to cleanse data before it goes into corporate databases; developing procedures and allocating responsibility for updating data based on certain triggers such as email bounces and returned mail; budgeting for resources to undertake regular data cleansing exercises; and planning for and implementing specific marketing campaigns with incentives for customers to validate their contact details.
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