Is your data capture on form?

In these days of digital multichannel marketing it’s all about data! Data is all around us, to the extent that the term “big data” is in our daily vocab. Big data describes the immense volume of data that flows through our businesses every single day. But as the saying goes, it’s not the size of the data, it’s what you do with it that counts!

Used wisely, data can provide invaluable insights that inform better decision-making and business strategy. So it is essential to give due care and consideration to the process of capturing that data in the first place. You can then be in the strong position of having all the data you actually need, rather than having to tailor your analysis to suit the bits you have.

On Form!

One of the main ways to capture data is through a data form on a website. Data capture forms enable data collection to be automated – saving time and increasing accuracy. BUT they have to be comprehensive and robust in order to ensure that you get all the data you need, and nothing that you don’t.

Submit key

This careful collection of data is becoming even more critical in light of the arrival of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in May 2018 which will still affect the UK despite Brexit.

But, even now, marketers are bound by the terms of the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) – as Honda and Flybe found out to their cost!

Landmark rulings during 2016 prosecuted both Honda and Flybe for sending out emails re marketing preferences. Honda’s emails were to individuals for whom they had no opt-in/opt-out data; Flybe’s were to individuals who had previously opted out, to update their details.

Honda and Flybe were fined because, according to Steve Eckersley, ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) Head of Enforcement: “Both companies sent emails asking for consent to future marketing. In doing so they broke the law. Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing without the right consent, is still marketing and it is against the law.”

Magnifying glass showing a spam folder in the mailbox on the monitor screen.

This means that – even before GDPR arrives next year – consent has to be given for clients to receive emails from you ie if you don’t have explicit consent to email your clients – DON’T! Even asking for consent is seemingly now classed as marketing – and therefore breaks the terms of the PECR.

It also means that if your client has opted-out of marketing emails then again DON’T email them! You will be breaking the law if you contact them and there is now precedent to be prosecuted.

So, for both marketing and legal purposes it is critical that we get data capture forms spot on! You need to establish very clearly that the individual is willing to accept future marketing material from you. To quote the ICO:

“Organisations will need to be able to demonstrate that consent was knowingly and freely given, clear and specific, and should keep clear records of consent. The ICO recommends that opt-in boxes are used.”

Consent is key!

One of your first priorities therefore is to get consent from the individual as to what they are prepared to receive from you AND how they are willing for their data to be used. Opt-in boxes are ideal for this purpose. Make these your first priority because no matter how well-designed the rest of the form is, if you are unable to use the data it is all a rather pointless exercise!

You then need to focus on what other information should be collected. Firstly what is the main purpose of the form? The way you use forms on your website may be highly specific to your business sector – and it may help to look at the vast array of plug-in forms that are available to meet your own set of needs.

Map pin flat above city scape and network connection concept

…But determining your requirements from the start is essential. Work out the what before the how.

The what

  • identify what data you require in order for you to meet your objectives
  • don’t ask for too much data: if you don’t have a use for it now, don’t gather it
  • determine whether any of the data you need is already being collected by some other means
  • do a gap analysis to work out what significant data you are missing
  • review your existing customer touch-points to see if there are opportunities to augment existing data

The how – for data that needs a new data capture form

  • make questions as easy to answer as possible
  • Incentivise people to give you their information eg with a free download or discount voucher
  • allow for multiple question types
  • carefully define the format of the data being collected to reduce errors and anomalies
  • where possible use drop-down lists and tick boxes to build in validation and ensure consistent format

To capture relevant data properly, legally and effectively takes time and effort but will be worth it in the long run. Nor is it a one-off exercise – you will need to decide how your company is going to keep answers up to date and what mechanisms you will use to gather new information as it becomes available.

However by doing this you will be empowered to draw the inspired conclusions that drive successful marketing and business strategy.

Author: Emily Williams