Email & SMS

Email Database Hygiene for Compliance & Marketing Efficiency

By Tinuiti Team

Did you know that data has replaced oil as the world’s most valuable resource?

Data provides us information about our customers to help enhance targeting, improve messaging strategy, and provide a better understanding of how a marketing program is performing. 

But in the age of privacy, data hygiene is becoming an ever more important consideration. Aside from the need to clean and de-dupe data in order to make it actionable, consumers expect—and the law now dictates—that brands be transparent about their collection and use of customer data.

Defining the information you’re collecting and setting standards for how the information in your email database will be used—in other words, the establishment of an email retention policy—will help to ensure your practices are compliant with applicable laws, and build trust with your subscribers, helping to drive CRM customer retention. 

Here are our top tips to maintain a clean and usable email database in an age of increasing privacy regulations.


Identifying Your Email Database Sources


There are a number of different ways to acquire data about your customers, and the accuracy of each source can vary widely.


Your Website


Your website can serve as a great source of primary data, but often assumptions need to be made based on implicit signals.

As your audience visits your website, their behaviors (time on site, pages visited, products purchased) can give you valuable insights into their interests and intent. Layering on additional information, such as the source from which they came, can give you even more actionable information. You may find that your email audience would appreciate seeing sale products while your social audience prefers to shop from amongst your bestsellers.

Analyzing your audience data in conjunction with your website data can provide a more holistic view and allow you to tailor more customized experiences.


Third-party Data Sources


If you’re looking for more concrete data on your users, such as geography, demographics, or other information that can help you to bucket your customers by persona, data appends from third party data providers can be a valuable investment.

Data append vendors typically aggregate information from various sources including credit applications or purchase data from various companies. Appends can get pretty pricey if you have a large list, however, so it’s best to identify the important subsections of your audience you want to know more about to ensure a return on the potentially significant investment. 


Collecting Data From Your Audience (With Permission)


If you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to collect accurate data from your audience, the most common method is through surveys or questionnaires.

Surveys are among the more reliable data points since the information is coming directly from your audience. Although you can potentially ask your audience anything, it’s best to only ask for information you intend to use, and avoid asking personal questions unless it is relevant to the service or product you are offering.


Achieving Data Consistency & Email Data Loss Prevention


A large problem often encountered when we review marketing programs is data inconsistency.

Many brands will layer data from multiple sources—website behavior, data from partners, and information collected directly from their audiences, for instance.

Unfortunately, the data isn’t always provided in the same format. For example, you may store two-character state abbreviations in your database, but a partner you ran sweepstakes with may have stored the state with the full state name instead. 


Implement A Database Cleanup Process


girl cleaning up an email database

While this may seem inconsequential, mismatched data can bring an email marketing program to a halt as teams look to marry the data or account for inconsistencies. If you know your data is inconsistent, build in larger lead times for your projects and initiatives to assess the data and either cleanup or develop workarounds. It may be worth the investment to set up a dedicated project to clean up any data issues before they cause a significant roadblock.

Better yet, implement simple processes to avoid data issues, like utilizing dropdowns, radio buttons, or checkboxes with predetermined entries. These small tweaks to your data collection practices will ensure that the data is consistent and ready to be put to use immediately.

Adding a layer of validation for data points like email addresses or mobile numbers will prevent users from submitting incorrectly formatted or fake pieces of contact information to unlock access to exclusive content or promotions.

Defining data standards for your marketing teams will help to keep your data in top shape and easily accessible as your marketing program grows. 


Maintaining Privacy Compliance With Data Collection, Sharing, and Use


Data privacy is a growing concern around the world. National and local governments have passed or are developing laws to protect consumer data around the world.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are just two well-known examples, with further state-level legislation in development across the US.


crowd of anonymous people


The most common features within these laws focus on giving more control to consumers, specifically placing a limitation on the data collection (allowing only what is relevant to the business relationship) and the ability to view or have their data deleted.

Keeping a clean data schema will allow for easy deletion and identification of private data points. With the right setup, it may be possible to anonymize the data rather than deleting it completely.

The trickier aspect is determining what is relevant to the business relationship. Often, we use data to make informed decisions and that can lead to data hoarding. Figuring out what data is useful to you will help you to determine the relevance of the data to the business. A discussion with legal resources will also help you to hone in on compliance as well.


Keep Your Email Database Clean & Compliant

As the value of consumer data continues to rise, so too will expectations for how it’s handled.

Businesses are expected to be savvier and more responsible with the data they collect. We hope this article has helped to define some considerations around how to store data and execute against data, and the value of data hygiene, helping you on your way to becoming a more data-focused marketer!


Want to learn more?

How to Develop Your Customer Data Strategy


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