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The Harte Hanks Blog

7 Reasons to Care About Clean Data

By: Sigrid Seymour

Using clean dataIs your data “clean”? Or does it contain inaccuracies, gaps, duplicate records or old information? Does clean data even matter?

You bet.

From overall corporate strategy to marketing efforts to performance measurement, clean data positions you to make the best possible decisions for all aspects of your business.

Here are seven reasons I have encountered over the past two decades as to why you should be concerned about improving the health of your customer data.

Improve your ability to perform advanced analytics.

A clean customer database that provides a complete view of all your customers’ engagements and transactions paves the way for optimized advanced analytics.  Whether you want to define personas, understand lifetime value, design upsell and cross-sell strategies, or develop sophisticated models, having clean and consolidated data will enable better analytics, improve the performance of your marketing campaigns and maximize your marketing investment.

Produce more effective direct marketing through better customer experience.

Accurate customer data, such as contact information and response data, allows you to better segment your customers based on their individual buying preferences and behaviors, leading to improved campaign targeting and personalized, relevant marketing content and offers—which all lead to a better customer experience and improved marketing results.

Set the stage for integration of online and social data.

A clear, detailed picture of your customer can make a world of difference when it comes to your marketing success. To develop this comprehensive view of your customer, you need to integrate traditional data with data from online sources. This process begins with a customer’s name, postal address or other offline data point and then appends new digital data about the customer, such as a Facebook or Twitter identity or online purchasing behavior. This online data enrichment is more likely to be successful when you begin with clean, accurate offline data. The result is a rich portrait of your customer that empowers high-performance targeting, messaging and experience strategies.

Improve efficiency and save money.

If you’re working with “dirty” data, you’re sending mail to inaccurate addresses, emailing obsolete email addresses and calling disconnected or wrong numbers. Clean data eliminate these wasteful efforts and make sure that your marketing communications actually get delivered, in a timely fashion, saving you valuable marketing dollars.

Properly inform strategic decisions.

“The impact of higher-quality data is most immediately evident in the quality and speed of business decisions. Organizations reporting data accuracy of over 90% were able to put reliable information in the hands of their executives fast enough to meet demand 80% of the time. Companies with lower than 70% data accuracy only succeeded at meeting this demand window half of the time.”

~Aberdeen Group

You need an accurate attribution of customers to stores, branches or regions in order to make solid strategic decisions for your business, such as those surrounding store level merchandizing, real estate assessment or regional segmentation. For example, fully understanding who your customers are and their saturation level at a location or within a geography will help you to decide which product categories to stock, which services best resonate in a particular state, or how seasonal factors will impact your business.

Allow you to accurately measure performance.

Most companies find that transactions alone cannot describe the true health of the business—you must also consider key performance indicators like customer growth, migration and attrition. These KPIs will be more accurate and more useful when based on complete, up-to-date data without duplicate records.

Mitigate risk and deliver on commitment to shareholders.

When there is a data breach, recall or other critical information to relay, clean data help you to mitigate risk by quickly communicating with your customers through accurate contact information.

So, now that we know why clean data is so important, the next step is to learn about cleaning up your dirty data. Look out for our next post on data enrichment FAQs. 

One thought on “7 Reasons to Care About Clean Data

  1. If you allow me I have a few comments. I sustain the importance of having clean data, especially in what concerns the customer data. On the other side the importance of customer data and the degree of “cleanness” vary between organizations and the various tasks that need to be performed with those data. Then is important to find the optimum between the costs of having bad data and the costs of improving data quality.
    From my perspective a “customer database” refers to the customer master data – mainly customer attributes, addresses and contact information. Transactional data – the transactions performed for a customer – are found most of the times with customer master data in an ERP and/or other type(s) of OLTP systems,. As the various customer data might be spread across several systems, then is needed to bring the data together, and that’s typically achieved within a data warehouse or data mart. Probably by customer database here you refer to the later – some precision is needed though.
    Data Quality is generally defined in terms of accuracy, completeness, consistency, integrity, conformity, uniqueness and timeliness (for definitions see All these dimensions need to be considered together when judging data quality and determining the influence on certain outcomes. There are other dimensions like accessibility, persistence or auditability, though they aren’t easily quantifiable.

    Even if you have bad data, you can still perform advanced analytics, though the results may not reflect the reality. Good data are an enabler for achieving better customer experience, improve efficiency, etc. In the end depends how the data are used – the techniques – and by whom.

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