Tis the season for a customer database health check

By Barley Laing, UK Managing Director at Melissa. 

With the festive ads of big retailers hitting our screens and Black Friday not far away, the busiest trading period of the year is getting into full swing.

While most retailers have their sales and marketing strategies for this period already nailed down, it’s not too late to ensure a vital part of their capability to supercharge sales is as accurate as possible – their customer data. 

Why clean customer data is vital

The customer database is one of retailers’ most valuable assets. Having clean, up to date customer data ensures the effective delivery of customer communications, speeds up the distribution of products - avoiding the dreaded and expensive return to sender scenario - and overall ensures a standout customer experience at this vital time of year. Clean customer data also helps to provide an accurate single customer view (SCV) to aid the creation and deliveryof highly personalised communications. Additionally, over the longer term, good quality data leads to accurate customer insight that will play a key role in informing the development of new products and services, that will drive ongoing growth. 

Unfortunately, 91 per cent of businesses have common data quality problems. This is perhaps not surprising, because without regular intervention customer data degrades at two per cent each month and 25 per cent over the course of a year. 

This trend is exacerbated with people increasingly providing their contact data via their mobile devices, because using a small screen there’s a greater likelihood of mistyping their contact details. In fact, we have found that approximately 20 per cent of addresses entered online contain errors such as spelling mistakes, wrong house numbers, and inaccurate postcodes.

Data health check

The good news is that customer databases, as part of a health check, can be audited very quickly to flag any inaccurate data, which can then be cleaned and enriched in a matter of a day or two, very cost effectively. 

The data audit will help retailers to generate a clear picture of their data, processes and overall quality, and ensure they have an understanding of the current health of their customer data. The audit should be able to spot data that needs to be updated, enriched, and appended, as well as potential duplicates. It will also highlight data that is not verifiable or usable, so retailers can ensure they don’t waste time and money on sales and marketing efforts to these records.

Data cleanse and verify

The next stage of the health check is to cleanse and verify any data that’s simply incorrect, such as customer name, address, email or telephone number. The tools sourced to achieve this must be able to deliver data quality both in batch for pre-existing held databases very quickly, and as new data is collected in real time to create a seamless customer onboarding experience. 

Deduplicate data

A particularly important function of the data review and cleansing process should be to deduplicate customer data. Duplication is a common problem, caused by names and contact information being obtained with errors at different touchpoints. It also occurs with the merging of customer databases after the purchase of a competitor or a new partnership. Duplicate data has cost implications in terms of increased volume of communications, particularly mailings, leading to a large number of customers possibly viewing the same communication more than once. This has the potential to damage the brand image of the retailer in the eyes of customers, and slow the delivery of communications and products, because of the inaccurate information. Additionally, duplicate customer data will lead to poor data analytics. Therefore, there’s a danger the wrong conclusions will be made from the data, which could be very costly. 

To keep valuable customer data accurate and up to date is an ongoing task. The good news is that it’s never too late to deliver a customer database health check, which involves a data audit and cleansing, because it can be implemented quickly and cost effectively. Additionally, those that clean their customer data regularly using such tools will ensure their customer relationship management (CRM) efforts and sales are maximised over the festive period and beyond. Doing so will also play an important role in making up for any lost revenue during the pandemic.

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