Should data come with a use by date?

New research from Royal Mail Data Services reveals that less than half (40 per cent) of organisations’ customer data is out of date, obsolete, incomplete and ultimately unusable. This comes as no surprise as it is widely accepted that the rate of data decay can be as fast as 3 per cent per month, meaning that within a year a third of a database can be past its use by date. However, its not just a data hygiene issue  – i.e. removing the names of people that have passed away or moved; its also a case of flabby data.

It has been proven that data is neurologically addictive, it ignites a compulsion to collect it. This coupled with the significant reduction in the cost of data storage means that the amount of customer information collected by organisations is increasing – customer data that really doesn’t need to be captured. At the DMA USA conference in 2012  a quarter of delegates admitted that their organisation collects more data than its needs. One marketer, for example, said that he collected information on religious affiliation for no reason whatsoever, other than he could. And its not just companies. In 2013 President Obama conceded that mass collection of private data by the US government was unnecessary and too intrusive.

The old database marketing adage ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ is true. A customer database is only as good as the information within it. And whilst customer data is the lifeblood of many organisations, in today’s landscape where data hacks are endemic marketers have a responsibility to ensure the data they collect is relevant to the business, clean and well looked after.