SmartBrief report: Data quality varies greatly

Data is the lifeblood of digital marketing. It can tell marketers when to reach out to buyers, what to say, and how to personalize that message for maximum impact. And yet, data can also easily lead marketing efforts astray.

That's the key takeaway from a SmartBrief report on data-driven marketing that was released today. First-party data appears to be the most reliable, while many digital solutions are built on third-party data that can sometimes draw incorrect inferences and misguide marketers.

It offers three questions to help assess the quality of a data set:

  1. How is this data collected?
  2. Who owns this customer data?
  3. Is this data driving intended results?

Here's an excerpt from the report:

[M]ost marketers don’t believe they are working with quality data. A recent study found that 70% of marketers believe that the customer data their organizations are using for marketing is low quality or inconsistent. That means they are running marketing campaigns on bad data and, as a result, possibly missing the mark when they select the audience they hope to reach.

Remedying the problem starts with parsing out what data is and what determines its quality. Data, as used by marketers, refers to all the information that brands can gather about their customers and potential targets. That includes their demographics, web searches, website visits, customer loyalty information from apps, online shopping histories and in-store interactions with kiosks and registers. Most of this type of data is first-party data, information collected directly by a brand, whether that’s through passive means — such as when a consumer is within range of a beacon or an internet of things sensor — or active data transfer — such as when a customer fills out a form, visits a site or makes a purchase.

Using existing customer data to match the profile of potential buyers is an important way of expanding your targeting to new customers. Often, marketers turn to third-party data solutions to expand their data sets and reach broader audiences. Third-party data is typically aggregated by data-management firms from sites across the web and via real-world interactions. That data is then licensed to users for marketing and ad targeting.

Because this data doesn’t come directly from consumers — but is instead inferred about them — it can be difficult to determine who is reached and how that matters. Consider the chasm between Facebook’s third-party inferred data and reality: The social media giant has told advertisers that its network has the potential to reach some 41 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24. The only problem? The most recent U.S. census data shows there are only 31 million people living in the country between those ages, according to a Pivotal Research Group senior analyst.

The discrepancy likely isn’t malicious—it’s simply what happens when inference reigns supreme. It makes clear that the types of tools marketers use, and the data those services rely on, can make or break the effectiveness of a campaign.

    Download the report to read more about data quality and its value in digital marketing.