Using Digital Channels to Enhance the Consumer Experience

The retail industry is shifting the way in which contact data is collected, used and prioritized. With this shift, businesses are using contact data for more than just mailings. While shipment deliverability and marketing offers are still important, retailers are increasingly using contact data to create a strategy centered on the customer.

As part of this strategy, retailers use data to improve loyalty campaigns and communicate with consumers through preferred channels. In many cases, those preferred channels are digital — e.g., email, mobile and social media.

This preference for online and mobile channels means that businesses must change the types of contact information they collect and how they disseminate messages. Forty-one percent of retailers cite email as the most important piece of contact data for 2012. Social media and mobile data are gaining ground, however, with mobile data especially popular in the retail and manufacturing sectors.

While these digital channels are less expensive for retailers than traditional direct communications, they create headaches if data is inaccurate. Some retailers focus less on contact data collected from digital channels. For instance, of those collecting mobile data, only 30 percent manage the data’s accuracy at the point of capture.

As businesses leverage more digital channels, data accuracy needs to be considered. This ensures message deliverability, but also allows retailers to consider more robust targeted marketing efforts. For example, some retailers are now optimizing their websites for smartphone users and developing strategies around social media.

Unfortunately, data collected through online applications is generally the dirtiest in a CRM system. Human error occurs frequently as users mistype information or enter data into the wrong field. The use of touch-screen technologies also plays a large role in the deterioration of data quality.

While data capture falls to customer-facing employees or customers themselves in self-service environments, the effects of that data are felt by everyone. The digital landscape may look grim to the customer insight or analytics group, but there are several ways to improve data captured through these channels.

First, leverage point-of-capture validation tools. Real-time address, email and phone validation tools are used by many retailers. This method ensures that customer data is validated immediately when a capture form is submitted. Validation at the point of capture ensures that invalid data can be corrected or completed by the customer while he or she is still engaged.

Second, audit all new customer data. For retailers who may not be ready to roll out point-of-capture software tools, it’s important to at least validate customer data on a regular basis. Some retailers run new customer records through a list processing service each day. Once the information is validated, it’s officially transmitted into the database. In this instance, invalid data is flagged for employee resolution.

Digital data needs to be treated with the same care as traditional contact information. Accurate and complete customer data is a prerequisite to creating a customer-centric strategy and, ultimately, improving business results.

David Northridge is the vice president of client retention at Experian QAS. David can be reached at