The Case for Data Cleaning: What is It and When Should You Do It?

The Case for Data Cleaning: What is It and When Should You Do It?

Information is valuable, but with the passage of time and no verification that the information is correct, it becomes questionable. When using it for digital marketing purposes, like emailing a previous customer to promote a new version of a product they bought a few years before, doubts creep in whether it’s worthwhile or not. One way to possibly resolve this dilemma is by using data cleaning. It may be a new phrase to you, so we’ll do our best to cover the basics here. 

Data Cleaning 101

We’d hope that information collected on a business or a person would remain accurate for many years. However, that’s not always the case, leading to bounced emails and mailers coming back with “return to sender.”

Data cleaning is one way to fix this issue. In layman’s terms, data cleaning is a way to examine the data stored to confirm its veracity. Is it still accurate or is it now outdated? Can it be salvaged by locating the person and updating their information, or is it worthless because they’re unreachable now? Check out this ‘What is data cleaning? article to get a more detailed look at the benefits of it for companies with old data stores. 

When is it Worthwhile Doing It?

Data collection for customers where the information is dated by several years brings it into question. When you only need accurate email contact information, it’s an even shorter period versus sending out a physical marketing mailer. For email marketing, people often have multiple email addresses they use for different purposes with some email clients like Hotmail or Yahoo falling out of favour. They then see their services become less used in favour of others such as Gmail. Frequently, people do not arrange to forward any new email from the old email address to the new one, and so new emails may arrive at the inbox but never get opened. 

When Is It Possibly Not Worthwhile? 

For email addresses, information that was current in the last 12 months is likely to still be reliable. But anything unconfirmed and older than a year rapidly falls into the questionable category. When digital marketers decide to go ‘old school’ by using snail mail for promotion to get extra attention, validating the physical mailing address is useful too. However, people move less frequently than they change email addresses, so data can be 3-4 years old and might still be reliable. 

Can It Save the Company Money Using Data Cleaning?

We’d say that it should do in most circumstances as long as you’re using appropriately old data. When a significant percentage of the stored customer information is out of date and unusable due to its inherent inaccuracies, then the data cleaning cost versus the marketing upside to allow for reaching sufficient customers nicely compensates. 

It pays even more when the company is knowingly marketing to previous buyers and there’s a new product launch that may be of interest to them. This way, the return on the cost of data cleaning is likely to be obtained much sooner. 

Data cleaning has a time and a place for email marketers. And even the digital marketers who occasionally tentatively venture into the direct mail marketing realm can benefit there too.

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