Data is now more valuable than oil, which means it must be treated with the same kind of care and attention as any other high value commodity. When your customers fill in their information, they have certain expectations from you. They won’t want to receive unexpected phone calls from questionable marketing companies in the middle of the night or be bombarded with “fun” surveys and chances to win great prizes whenever the open their email inboxes. Effective data management is now part and parcel of maintaining a successful online business, so here are a few tips on how to do it properly.
Take Adequate Steps to Secure Your Customer’s Data
From Ashley Maddison to Facebook and many other companies, leaked data can spell a very public and very expensive problem for online businesses. When customer’s share their information with you, they don’t expect it to fall into the wrong hands. Never skimp on security measures and let your customers know what specific steps you have taken to make sure that any personal information they provide is well protected. Using encryption services and dedicated security specialists is the best option but if this is beyond your budget, you will at least need to provide assurances that your customer’s data will not be sold to other companies or used without their explicit consent. Password protection, text-based verification and other measures can all be implemented relatively simply and will help to avoid any unwanted information leaks.
Do Not Ignore GDPR
Gather as Much Data as Possible at One Time
Encouraging your customers to create profiles that include all of their key personal details is generally a good approach. This style of data capture can also mean that you have access to any ongoing online activity they may engage in, such as purchases, clicks and other more nuanced info. Most businesses use this model now and consumers are becoming accustomed to creating profiles or accounts rather than using stores anonymously. There may be some resistance to this, especially from those who prefer to keep themselves as anonymous as possible while online, but providing you are as clear and honest as possible about the way in which you plan to use any data you collect, most people will accept this as part and parcel of using your service. To do this effectively takes careful planning and research. You will need to identify the most important pieces of data you need and find a way to gather this information consistently. Analytics tools and reporting software allow you to build up a clear picture of your customers online behaviours but your initial data capture form and the fields you request are critically important.
Keep Information Up to Date
Many direct marketing agencies fail to do this and consequently end up contacting the wrong people or losing touch with their clients. Always ensure the data you are using is up to date and relevant. This is relatively easy to do, providing you have the right systems in place. Allowing customers to change their address and contact details in online profiles is a great option, but you can also send occasional emails or texts to if this isn’t yet an option for you. In many cases, it can be as simple as ticking a box or replying with a one-word answer, so most customers don’t have a problem with this style of communication. Any incorrect or out of date information should be destroyed in accordance with data protection laws.
Safeguard Against False Data
Bots are big business now and its possible to gather a huge amount of “data” from a virtual army of non-existent customers if you’re not careful. Simple captcha style verification processes on things like sign up forms and account welcome pages should be standard practice for any online business. Though it can make the whole process a little more time consuming, it means that you can expect a far more accurate reflection of your customer base. Another step you can take is address verification. This can be especially useful for those who deliver products to people’s homes or businesses. In the UK and the US, post and zip code checkers are now available as plugins, meaning that even novice and amateur web developers should be able to use this feature.
Choose What You Collect Very Carefully
The world is changing, and certain pieces of information are becoming obsolete. Continuing to have fields for fax or pager numbers for example, is a great way of gathering a lot of data that you will ultimately never use. Unless you’re one the tiny minority who do still rely on outdated technology to communicate. Ensure that everything you gather is relevant and useful. Quality is far more important than sheer volume when it comes to customer information, so spend some time selecting the pieces of information you think are the most relevant to your business. A detailed report on a customer shopping habits will probably be more useful to you than a list 1000 dead land lines, after all.