Data decay describes the deterioration of data accuracy, reliability, or coverage over time. The process can result from damaged hardware of software, but the focus of this article is the data decay that is associated with business information. Data decay, thus, describes the process of data becoming obsolete over time.
Understanding data decay
In this context, decay commonly occurs when customer records associated with B2B sales, marketing, and CRM are not maintained. A prospective client list, for example, may fail to reflect the fact that an individual has been promoted or accepted a new role at a different company.
Data decay can also result from human error when information is entered into a system. When one considers that the average company makes 12 copies of its data, one simple mistake can compound and become a severe problem.
Consumers are also subject to the phenomenon. Most can relate to receiving a letter in their mailbox addressed to someone else, while others have experienced the frustration of visiting a retail store and discovering that the business has moved to another location.
How can data decay be avoided?
Data decay cannot be avoided entirely because of the sheer amount of data businesses rely on and the frequency with which it updates. Research conducted by Dun & Bradstreet and The Sales and Marketing Institute International (SMI) found that every 30 minutes:
- 75 phone numbers change.
- 120 business addresses change.
- 20 CEOs leave their roles, and
- 30 new businesses are formed.
With the above stats in mind, below is a look at some data decay avoidance strategies:
- Engage with the target audience – to ensure that contact information is up-to-date, marketing teams must consistently and tactfully engage with their target audience. Lead magnets that are relevant and add value increase the likelihood that a prospect will continue to interact with a brand even after their details change.
- Ask consumers directly – there are various ways for a business to politely remind its customers to update their contact information. Calls to action that emphasize “completing a profile” or “customizing an account” work best.
- Establish a data hygiene action plan – data hygiene involves addressing data that is either incomplete, incorrect, irrelevant, or inaccurate. This may be something as simple as double opt-in email verification or the validation of postal addresses before a campaign is initiated. Data hygiene can also be increased by automating manual processes that are prone to human error.
- Use third-party data – for those unwilling or unable to commit to the strategies listed above, some companies sell verified or validated third-party data. One such company, Data Axle, employs over 300 data technicians that make 60,000 calls per day to minimize the effects of data decay.
- Data decay describes the process of data becoming obsolete over time. It commonly occurs when customer records associated with B2B sales, marketing, and CRM are not maintained. However, it is also present in certain B2C contexts.
- Data decay cannot be avoided entirely because of the sheer amount of data businesses rely on and the frequency with which it updates. With the average company making 12 copies of its data, a single mistake can become a significant problem very quickly.
- Avoiding data decay completely is not possible, but there are various ways a business can reduce its prevalence. These include establishing a data hygiene plan, purchasing third-party data, regularly engaging with the target audience, and asking customers to update their details directly.