So Your Customer Data Is Broken: Now What?

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Click to learn more about author Olivia Hinkle.

Over the past few months, businesses have been digging deeper into their CRM data and using email as a primary channel for communicating critical messages. They’ve also been eagerly reminding customers of their presence, even if the customer hasn’t been to their business or website for years.

In analyzing millions of emails for the “State of Email Live” webinar, we found that by mid-March, one in 15 emails had a COVID-19 message. While these messages resulted in higher inbox placements and open rates, that didn’t necessarily equate to clicks and conversions. It’s not surprising, then, that throughout March and April of 2020, there was also a steady increase in unsubscribes and complaints to ISPs.

You could argue that these less than stellar results are due to collective email fatigue. You might also think these extra email pushes won’t do much harm. Neither point is exactly true.

The Risk of Over-Communicating

The long-term impact of complaints, low open rates, and unsubscribes affects your sender score, gets you on blocklists, and reduces your deliverability. Essentially, the more you send without analyzing the results, the higher the risk you have of losing the customer’s interest. And that risk impacts the bottom line.

In a recent survey by the Data & Marketing Association, 91 percent of marketers believe that poor email deliverability has a negative financial impact, and 8 percent say that impact is severe.

But the onslaught of marketing messages and COVID-19 are not entirely to blame for a downturn in customer engagement and retention. For many businesses, the recent drop in engagement signals bigger issues that were always there; the pandemic just brought them to light.

Fixing Customer Issues Starts with Quality CRM Data

While sources vary on exactly how much customer data is inaccurate at any given time, according to Experian’s 2020 Global Data Management Research Benchmark Report, on average, almost one-third of current customer and prospect data is suspected to be inaccurate in some way. Specifically, only half of the organizations surveyed consider the current state of their CRM or ERP data to be clean, and therefore, able to be fully leveraged. That same report found 98 percent of organizations say that having high-quality data is either extremely important or important in achieving their business objectives.

Yet simple changes to your CRM data can have big results. Sportsman’s Guide recently took a closer look at how it built its data warehouse and found holes in its data structure. For example, every time a customer added an item to their wish list, the database created a single row. Essentially, they had to figure out a way to connect those rows and assign them to the customer.

To fix it, they used SQL Queries and predictive artificial intelligence (AI) to pull up the most recent items added to a wish list, associated it with a customer’s account, and dynamically served up the image via email, while also featuring four additional items.

“By cleaning up our data and closely monitoring the inbox rates of our campaigns, we drove over $150,000 in revenue through two email sends,” said Mitch Berg, email marketing analyst, Sportsmen’s Guide. “Both sends had open rates of over 20 percent, with a click to open rate at an average of 27 percent.”

Your data demands these three actions before you launch your next campaign:

1. Address Your Duplicate Contacts: Getting rid of duplicates can be a long and sometimes tedious exercise. To avoid the pain and make an immediate, positive impact, get rid of the obvious dupes first. Then work your way into identifying and merging the more nuanced dupes that require a bit more time to handle properly. But don’t wait to automate your deduplication efforts until every dupe scenario is ironed out. Automate as you go and do yourself a favor by implementing a duplicate blocking tool for a second layer of protection and prevention. When 15 percent of leads contain duplicates, this is a solid strategy to keep your sales engine running. Deduping before data validation also saves on verification costs.

2. Verify Your Data: You know how important it is to ensure the quality of your contact lists and remove contacts that returned a hard bounce or have unsubscribed. But you should also aim to verify your contact data (or, at a minimum, email addresses) before sending to avoid as many hard bounces as possible. This will also give you an accurate view of how many emails could turn into leads and conversions. That said, what you might not realize is that the average number of email accounts per user is 1.75 and is expected to reach 1.86 by 2022, according to The Radicati Group.

These simple factors reinforce how important it is to conduct email verification at the point of capture and routinely throughout the year. The nominal cost of email verification and what it protects you from losing in brand reputation and revenue makes it an instant return on investment (ROI) win.

3. Find Out Your Sender Score: If you haven’t already, get a better view of your email sender reputation (which is a key factor in your success) using a free online tool called — you guessed it — Sender Score. It assigns a number between 0 and 100 based on your sender reputation, as judged by various mailbox providers, and offers tips on how to improve if it’s worse than you expected.

3 Day Blinds is a company that took a closer look at its Sender Score. The results showed the company had low deliverability and virtually no insight into its inbox placement. With bounce rates up around 50 percent and average open rates down to two percent, it was time to fix the issues. By cleaning customer data, focusing on the most engaged subscribers, and segmenting its lists, 3 Day Blinds’ delivery rate soared to 99 percent, and open rates increased over 10 times. With this new insight, the company continues to monitor its Sender Score and has maintained its high results.

By following these three actions, you can clean up your data now, so your campaigns are in top shape and ready to go for the critical second half of 2020.

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