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Managing the data supply chain: five best practices for businesses

Jason Lark, Managing Director, Celerity, discusses how organisations can manage business data


Collecting the right data

The process of collecting, analysing and using data can be very frustrating for businesses. The type of data your company uses depends entirely on your business’ goals.  Not all data comes from the same source, and the source of data is important in determining its relative value.

First-party data is the arguably the most valuable because it comes directly from a company’s customers and prospects, rather than from bought datasets.

Second-party data is essentially another brand’s first-party data that you’ve purchased from them. It can be useful to fill in some of the gaps in the information your brand collects, but bear in mind that integrating two data sets can be a difficult and time-consuming task.

Third-party data, which amounts to purchasing ‘off-the-shelf’ data sets, can be accessed by anyone, is more likely to breach regulations, and is generally of poorer quality: there is no assurance that the information you receive will be relevant or useful.

Ultimately, it’s useful to use a combination of first, second and third-party data, but the more first-party data you have the better, because it tends to be higher quality and more relevant.


Check, clean, and delete

A database of inactive customer profile information like old address details and phone numbers is not useful. If a customer has not engaged for a definitive amount of time, then there is no point in keeping their information – it’s a waste of space and trying to reengage them is slightly intrusive. What’s more, getting rid of data that you don’t need is particularly important with GDPR in full effect; companies are under more pressure than ever to justify their collection and usage of personal data, and they must have a legitimate reason for keeping specific information.

A good data strategy is attentive, but not invasive. Conducting regular data quality checks is key to ensuring that your data stays relevant and useful. By erasing all old and unnecessary information, your teams will always only work with fresh data and, in turn, generate the best results.


Enrich your data

Good data collection goes beyond basic data points like name, gender, address, and so on. To build a far more comprehensive customer profile, you need to enrich your company’s data with quantitative, qualitative, and descriptive data.

Data enrichment is often defined as merging second and third-party data from an external authoritative source with an existing database of first-party customer data. This is normally done in order to enhance existing data so that businesses can make more informed decisions.

There are generally two kinds of data enrichment. Demographic data enrichment is the process of acquiring new demographic data, such as marital status and income level, and adding that to an existing customer dataset. Enriching data in this way can enable marketing offers to be much more targeted; a crucial tactic in today’s age of personalised communications.

Geographic data enrichment typically involves adding postal details or latitude and longitude coordinates to an existing dataset. Data such as postal codes or geographic borders are easily available for a price. With this data at hand, businesses can, for example, identify new markets to expand into.

While data enrichment is important, it bears repeating that you should only enrich your data sets with relevant data points, not just any. The data you choose will all depend on the focus of your business.


Make your data accessible

How and where you store your data will inform the quality of your marketing efforts. For years, marketers worked to create a Single Customer View (SCV). Their activities focused on first-party data, however, meaning they missed out on much of the wider view of online activity. Then came the Data Management Platform (DMP), which provided a solution to third-party data, but lacked capability outside of anonymised IDs.

More recently, technology companies are offering a solution in the form of a Customer Data Platform (CDP). Not to be confused with a DMP or SCV, the CDP is gaining momentum faster than any marketing technology preceding it. With the promise of a unified, persistent view of individual customer profiles, updated in real-time and accessible by other systems – it’s easy to see the appeal. These unified systems help to avoid siloes and data fragmentation. Overall, a CDP is much more effective at collecting, enriching and delivering data from across multiple sources than its traditional counterparts.


Unify your customer experience

Finally, once you’ve set your CDP set up, you’ll need to make sure it’s correctly integrated with all of your data collection platforms – from website analytics tools, to CRM systems, to social media channels.

Unifying customer data based on activities across a range of channels will help you to build a fuller, more accurate customer profile – therefore strengthening the ability to personalise your marketing efforts.