by Mike Masnick

Companies Collect More Customer Data... Much Of It Wrong Or Useless

from the well,-that's-helpful dept

While various companies are getting ever more intrusive about the data they're collecting on you, they seem to forget that the whole point of collecting this data is to be able to do something with it. However, many companies don't do much at all, and much of the data they collect is wrong or useless - so-called dirty data. Some of this is because they're collecting different data in different systems, and other times it's because of human error. I'd add one more reason: people are sick of giving up their information for nothing in return. It's been shown that people don't mind giving up a little info if they get something back for it, but if all they're getting back is spam - then that's of no value to them whatsoever. It's as if these marketers have had it drilled into their heads that they need more data for marketing purposes, but forgot to go to class the second day to figure out what you do with that data to make customers' lives better, not worse. Until they figure that out, the quality of the data isn't going to get much better.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Paul L. James, Feb 7th, 2004 @ 5:41am

    Pay for information

    I wonder if its possible for the consumer to get paid for there information. Then the information should be accurate and the consumer is pleased.Just a thought

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Rick Gutleber (profile), Feb 7th, 2004 @ 1:46pm

    why should we?

    The article has it right... there is no incentive to actually give real information. In fact, there is a strong disincentive to give identifying information because it will simply be used to harass you, and not in an intelligent way.

    The way I see it, if the data becomes dirty enough they will stop collecting it. If that means that once free content must be purchased, then that's fine with me, because at least the real terms of the exchange are stated up front rather than getting something at the price of being harassed by spam or have your mailbox crammed full of dead trees for the rest of your life.

    The amount of physical junk mail that goes straight in the trash can is a travesty, because in addition to all the reasons spam is bad, it's also adding huge amounts of waste to our landfills. But it's not going away anytime soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    BamaTalker, Feb 7th, 2004 @ 4:59pm

    Data collection

    I don't know about any of you but, I *NEVER* enter the correct info if I can help it. Everything is bogus. Name, email, age (the older/younger the better,) sex, zip code, etc. If everyone did this then these nimrods would realize that what they have is pure garbage and maybe they'd stop. Wishfull thinking? Maybe, maybe not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    thecaptain, Feb 8th, 2004 @ 8:21am

    Re: Data collection

    I agree and do the same.
    Personally I'm starting to seek out places to enter garbage data.
    I've also gone from entering outrageously strange data (that is easily filtered) to "plausible" data...ie: that COULD be real..but isn't and is just fake enough to be useless.
    I mean if you just keep putting in stuff like "I.P Freely" or "Screw. U. Marketter" and stuff like that, it can be easily filtered out and forgotten, but if you enter "David Frobish" whose 42 and makes 67 grand a year in a real area code...but its a totally fake person...the DB is dirty and there's no way to extract THAT record without a lot of work.
    To Marketting execs: SCREW YOU! WE ARE FED UP!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    AMetamorphosis, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 6:20am

    Data for sale ...

    I couldn't agree any more heartily !

    Hear, Hear !

    Marketing people have become so intrusive that I no longer want to give correct information if @ all possible.

    @ Cash registers when the sales clerks ask for my zip code it's : " 90210 "

    On websites that ask for data before providing content I am the exact opposite of my true self and always am in the highest income bracket.

    Phone #'s ?

    Use this: 410-347-1488 - It's the " Rejection Hotline " Callers hear a prerecorded message that sez you've been given this fake # because you're a loser. They have a list of #'s on their website that may be closer to where you live.

    When I'm asked for marketing information I inform the questionnaire that that information is available for a fee depending on how much information they want. Phone #, hmmm today that costs $ 30.00. Want my address, that sells for $ 50.00. When they retort that they can just obtain that information in public directories or court houses I tell them by all means do so.

    If it has so much value, then they can buy it like the prodcuts & services I am buying from them

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Frank, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 6:28am

    Re: Data for sale ...

    And if a site demands your e-mail address so they can send you login information, use mailinator.com.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    thecaptain, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 6:31am

    Re: Data for sale ...

    We should start a movement ;)

    A grassroots thing...

    For a healthy privacy...poison the marketting databases.

    Something like that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    AMetamorphosis, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 6:50am

    Re: Data for sale ...

    Thank you !

    One more piece to add to my arsenal ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Gregory Kennedy, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 7:47am

    data collection was oversold

    I think part of this was that the value of data collection was oversold during the boom, and due to the lack of a REAL business modle, selling data became the mantra for most DOT COMS once companies like Hot Jobs proved there was a significant market for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Joe Baderderm, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 2:28pm

    Database Marketing

    As a "marketter", I just wanted to reply to some of the issues that people have brought up.

    A. Recycle! That saves trees. (I know that is only treating a symptom and not the cause, there are plenty of ways to opt out of mailing lists, though it can take some work.)

    B. Customers don't have to be paid to be inticed to enter in accurate information. It definitely is about the value of the transaction. If I, as a consumer, don't want some company contacting me, I'll use a throw-away address (i.e. like I am using mailinator now).

    C. I think everyone missed the point of the article, but I do agree that the amount of data required by companies today is insane. Most don't have a clue what to do with it. Even if you are giving a checkout person a false ZIP, if you run your credit card, they know where you live.

    Visit CASPIAN's nocards.org for more info about consumer privacy. Since there already is an effort towards improving companies already, I thought people would appreciate it. They are definitely one-sided regarding issues and borders on scare tactics, but I think it is informative to the privacy novice.

    Marketing is about relationships, and the companies that you want to have a relationship with are the ones that you will want to give information to. Other companies need to work to build that trust rather than hammering away to get data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    LittleW0lf, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Data for sale ...

    When I'm asked for marketing information I inform the questionnaire that that information is available for a fee depending on how much information they want. Phone #, hmmm today that costs $ 30.00. Want my address, that sells for $ 50.00. When they retort that they can just obtain that information in public directories or court houses I tell them by all means do so.

    Make sure you either live in an unincorporated area or have a business license from your city, especially if you do this more than a couple times a year. I could see this backfiring on you if the marketeer wanted to be a prick, as most cities (they are all on wellfare, no matter where you live,) want you to have a permit before you start charging people for "service," and failure to do so could get you reported and the fines for operating a business (collecting money for services) are not small.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    LittleW0lf, Feb 9th, 2004 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Database Marketing

    Marketing is about relationships, and the companies that you want to have a relationship with are the ones that you will want to give information to.

    Thanks Joe, as a consumer, I wish bad Marketeers would listen to your good words of advice. For one, they would be more likely to get my money (if they had a product I was interested in,) if they treated me with respect and didn't ask for stuff they neither needed nor used.

    Its been talked about here before, but I am much more happy to provide information to those who ask for it when I know they will treat the information I give them with respect. Some companies send me unsolicited (well, it is unsolicited in the fact that I haven't asked them to send it,) mail, yet I don't consider it SPAM because it is tailored to me, and is from a company that I regularly buy products or services from.

    SPAM and lack of respect for privacy are important issues that most business folks who have received their degrees within the last 10 years have apparently been taught is a good thing, even though everyone knows it isn't.

    It is unfortunate that this sort of attitude is encouraged in school; I graduated within the last 10 years as a computer scientist, which until recently at that university, was considered part of the business school. One of the business teachers (who was also a business ethics instructor!) was fired and several of the students placed on probation because the teacher actively advocated cheating on tests and assignments.

    Most folks outside the University dismissed it as a single occasion of bad judgement, though those of us in the computer science classes knew that it was rampant; I was offered several hundred dollars a semester during the first year when taking remedial computer classes by business majors taking computer classes to do their programming assignments, (which of course I turned down and reported to the teacher,) and I wasn't alone. One of my friends was expelled from the university for actually taking the money and providing a business student with the programming assignments to finish the class.

    Of course, there were many business students who had ethics, but with everything, those who don't have ethics make a bad name for those who do. I suspect there are a large minority of Marketeers who are making a bad name for everyone else too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    thecaptain, Feb 10th, 2004 @ 8:40am

    Re: Database Marketing

    Joe you sound like a really really nice guy and please don't take my ranting personally because it sounds like you're one of the GOOD marketters I've been hearing about.

    You say marketing is about relationships. Well I'm not the only customer who feels he's being constantly date-raped by my SO marketer. Most marketers aren't thinking in terms of "relationship" they think in terms of "wallets", and basically I (and MANY others) do NOT feel that marketers listen, or even CARE about how customers feel...we bear the most stretched truths, the tiniest fine prints and obscure language all in the name of "tricking" us out of a buck...and it WORKS too because if someone spent the time to check out each and every single detail out of all the transactions that go on in the day...we wouldn't have the time to EARN the money that's being stolen from us...that's right I said stolen.

    Ok, maybe marketting isn't COMPLETELY to blame for this (I have a healthy hate for large corps too) but they ARE the front line soldiers for this...and I'm sorry, I just don't see any ethics in your marketting messages anymore.

    Its sad that YOU as a good guy, are the very small exception, NOT the rule.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Paul Johnson, Jun 14th, 2004 @ 5:54am

    A better phone number to use...

    555 1212. I regularlly use that whenever prompted for a phone number. I once has a clerk at LL Bean comment 'Wow that is an easy number to remember' and he wasn't some pimply faced boy but someone in their 30s.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Paul Johnsoon, Jun 14th, 2004 @ 5:58am

    A possibly incorrect assumption

    Your assumption that a company will use the ZIP info to determine the residence of their customers is possibly false. If they did that why not just us that and forget about asking for the ZIP. Also it is far to common for the division to want that ZIP code information to be ignorant that that data might be available in another part of the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    jonathan stephen, Mar 19th, 2005 @ 12:19pm

    i want to be an international marketter

    dear sir,
    i am a nigerian and i would love to be one of your marketters.
    i have an ssce qualifications and three years experience in marketting.
    i would be very happy when my request is granted.
    yours faithfully,
    jonathan praise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Chris, Feb 23rd, 2006 @ 11:07am

    Zip codes...

    It's actually not such a bad idea to give your zip/postal code to stores as the main thing they use this for is to decide where to place new stores.

    You may find that next year you don't have to travel across town to get what you need anymore...

    I think the problem of "forgetting what the data's for" has happened on both ends. We've been taught to hate giving up data, companies have beent taught to get it at any cost... the way of most things I guess... it was a good idea at the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    BD, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:03am




    The Websense category "Hacking" is filtered.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 8:48pm

    Collecting ZIPs

    I worked for an Internet company in the late 90's and we asked for ZIP codes to download our free software. A large plurality of our users apparently lived in Beverly Hills (90210). We wanted to see where we should spend more marketing $, but gave nothing back in return (no local weather, etc.) It was stupid. I don't do that any more, though we did get decent relative data otherwise when we excluded 90210 and 12345 and some other obviously bogus ZIPs.

    On a hilarious related note, the gas pumps started asking for ZIP codes a few years ago when using a credit card. The first time I saw that, I entered 90210 - and it declined my card. The bad part was that then it wouldn't re-authorize my card when I put in the right number. Not even when I moved to another pump at the same station. I had to drive to a different station to gas up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Arturo F Munoz, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 8:08pm

    Use 20-80 Rule To Keep Data Useful

    I've set up data quality control processes using pretty sophisticated tools like Business Object's FirstLogic and Informatica ETL tools, and I've also spent a lot of time talking to Harte-Hanks about their Trillium solution and Dunn and Bradstreet's Purisma, plus working with small shops that have proprietary software to dedupe records, etc.

    After years of working with all these providers processing B2B data, one thing comes top of mind regarding keeping data clean and useful, and it's simply this: focus.

    Marketers simply DO NOT tend to focus on the most critical data elements they need to become EFFECTIVE. I always insist on having them categorize the data they need in terms of 4 classifications: 1) Timeliness, 2) Accuracy, 3) Consistency and 4) Completeness.

    If they can tell me in terms of actual data points what it is they need that must be timely, accurate, complete and consistent over some vector of operation, then it's easier for me to ask "So, if I give you those data points at that level of quality, will they ensure that you be effective in accomplishing a particular marketing goal?" If the answer is yes, then I ask for proof.

    Most of the time when you put the pressure on the marketer to formulate the proof, you come to realize easily that the data set they perceive as being critical in achieving that particular effectiveness goal is actually not the right data to run with. The users actually need different data that they had not even come to realize was necessary to support operational effectiveness.

    But if you come to identify that critical data set, then rest assured that you're more likely to have a major impact on the operation if you deliver on improved data quality, including having an argument in hand for minimizing data capture across multiple contact touch points, than if you just ran with whatever came out first from the user's mouth.

    What makes collecting these data criteria from marketers difficult? Mental discipline.

    The marketing mindset simply doesn't work this way. It's literally painful for a marketer to have to sit through a discussion on data quality and operations process, unless you're working with a marketing ops analyst or marketing IT process strategist. It's like asking an interior decorator to sit through a discussion on the chemistry of paint. But it's not impossible to do. Just give it a try.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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