Data enrichment, sometimes called data enhancement, means adding relevant information to your data to give it more context – and make it more valuable. This might mean getting complex demographic information to develop more targeted messaging, or it could be as simple as adding delivery point identifiers to streamline your direct mail and cut costs.
As with all data projects, though, there are good and bad ways of getting things done.
A good data enrichment project enhances your ability to use your data for the purposes you intend it. A bad data enrichment project is expensive, wasteful, incurs unnecessary risks and doesn’t help you use your data effectively—and it might even damage your data quality.
To make sure it’s a good one and not a bad one, here’s what you need to consider before going ahead with a planned data enrichment project.
1. Set your goals.
In the age of big data, data collection can seem like an end in itself—but data is a means, not an end. If you know what you want to achieve with your data, it will help you determine which enhancements are best and most cost effective for you. It will also help you measure whether your project has been successful.
2. Identify the data you need.
It can be tempting to gather as much data as possible. But, for example, if you’re a digital service provider, will you really need individual customers’ up to date street addresses? Probably not. And there are compelling reasons to enrich your database only with information that’s truly useful to you:
a) It costs more to enrich with more data. Tightening your scope to what you really need will improve your ROI.
b) More data takes up more space. Your information has to be stored somewhere. Space may or may not be a consideration for your organisation, but it won’t hurt to be mindful—apparently negligible amounts of data can balloon in size very easily if you’re adding it to thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of records.
c) You’re responsible for information you’re storing, and different categories of data can come with different legal implications.
3. Make sure your enriched data is in the right format.
Structure and formatting of data is vital to ensuring its usability. If, for example, you were to enrich your database with ABNs and phone numbers, they would be less usable if they were buried in a miscellaneous notes field in your CRM.
It will save you a headache later if you determine your validation requirements, destination fields and other structural elements ahead of time and ensure they’re applied appropriately during enrichment.
4. Source your data carefully.
Data enrichment uses data from third parties, which is then appended to your own data. Think critically about the accuracy of the data you’re going to get. Will this source be up to date and accurate? With some suppliers, the trustworthiness of your data is easily assessed. For example, you know what kind of business Australia Post is, and you have reason to believe they have reliable postal delivery information.
But it isn’t always so clear cut. You might end up with data scraped off websites that haven’t been updated in years—who knows? The bottom line here is, the accuracy of data you source needs to be of the highest standard, or else you will make your own data quality worse, and that will affect your outcomes. As the old adage goes: garbage in, garbage out.
5. Vet your data partners for compliance with privacy regulations.
Data collection comes with compliance obligations in Australia. While your organisation’s collection practices might be irreproachable, those of the third party from whom you source enhancement data might not. This can become particularly dicey when it comes to specific categories of information, like the personally identifiable information of your customers or donors, or information gathered about children (a problem which has seen an alarming uptick in recent years).
Our best advice here is to make sure that you vet your partners for compliance with Australian privacy laws and industry best practice.
Because of the complexity and potential pitfalls of data enrichment, it’s common to seek out an expert data partner whose long experience and industry knowledge and expertise can be put to use in your favour.
If you have questions about data enrichment, feel free to contact us and one of our data experts will get back to you for a free, no-obligation consultation.