11 (Ethical) Ways to Collect Customer Data

5 min read
May 15, 2020
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Big data is BIG. According to a study by IBM, 90% of all the existing data in the entire world has been created in just the last two years. 2.5 quintillion (that’s 2.5 with 18 zeros behind it) bytes of data are generated every day. To put that into context, TechJury reported in March 2019 that it would take 181 million years to download the entire internet.

All this data gives businesses an opportunity. More and more, data is used to identify, target, understand, and retain customers. It is also used to help predict what they want to buy and when. Collecting and utilizing customer data can lead to more sales and increased revenues. With that in mind, here are 11 ways to collect data from current and potential customers.

1. Legally

Make sure you have your terms of service agreement up to date and that your customer agrees to them. You also need to make sure that you have a privacy policy in place and that your customer is aware of what it contains. If you collect data from customers in the EU, Canada, the UK, or the US, these rules need to be followed. Additionally, be aware of the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995 and the General Data Protection Regulation. Any data you collect needs to be secure and protected.

2. Analytics

Many services are available that will provide analytical data for your website. These services track the behavior of your website visitors, including what pages on your website they visited, what geographical area they are located in, which website referred them, time spent on the site, and other general behaviors of your website visitors. It also records the total number of visitors and page views so you can keep an eye on how your website is performing overall.

3. Cookies and web beacons

These allow you to see what a visitor did on your website, where they were before they arrived, and where they went after they left. This makes it possible to then target these potential customers with appropriate and appealing ads, increasing the possibility for a sale even after they are gone. They can also recognize a returning visitor and remember their preferences.

4. Social media

Keep track of likes, mentions, comments, conversations, clicks, and tags you receive on your various social media channels. This will help you demonstrate the effectiveness of an advertising campaign or help you determine what content or products your customers want to see. It will also show which social media channels are working best for your business. If someone uses their social media account to log into your website, you can also access predefined information. However, be aware that the more information you ask for, the higher the probability is that the user will opt-out.

5. Filled-out forms

Ask and you shall (hopefully) receive. Anytime a visitor to your website completes a transaction, survey, registers on your website, signs up for a newsletter, or takes part in an incentive program, they will be filling out a form that allows you to ask for a variety of information. The customer service and sales records you already possess can also provide detailed information about how a customer has interacted with your business and provide insight into what will make them a repeat customer. 

6. Location data

Don’t discount the importance of location data in ecommerce environments. According to a study done by Wharton in 2014, the location of your potential customer is just as important in ecommerce as it is with traditional “brick-and-mortar” stores. This information can be gained from website analytics, and shipping and billing information. With this data in hand, businesses can understand which geographical locations are working best for them and how the offline world is affecting online sales. 

7. Email tracking

Tracking email will tell you if an email was opened, when and where it was opened, on what device, and if anything in the email was clicked. That data gives you insight into your customer behavior, which will help you customize your email messages. By making your email messages more effective, you can convert the recipients into paying customers.

8. Log-in dates

Gathering information about when a customer last logged in to your website is also useful. When you know it has been a while since a customer last logged in, you can have an automatic email sent with an incentive for your customer to return or a questionnaire that tries to determine why there has been a lapse in their activity.

9. A little at a time

Keep it simple when asking a customer for data on forms by determining what information is the most important and valuable for your business. It’s likely that the more information you ask for, the more “pushback” there will be from your customer. Develop a long-term action plan for collecting data so that you are collecting a little every step of the way. When longer forms are used, consider offering incentives for the customer to facilitate them providing that information. 

10. When they buy and when they don’t buy

When customers buy something from you is an ideal time to ask them how satisfied they are with the buying experience. On the flip side of the coin, when a potential customer doesn’t complete a purchase by abandoning their shopping cart, they should be followed up with to figure out why or to offer an incentive to get them to return and complete the purchase. These can both be done with a form being automatically triggered after a purchase or an automatic follow-up email that is sent to the customer after they complete a purchase or abandon their shopping cart.

11. Buy It

You can also simply purchase customer data from a third party. Many companies offer this information for sale, including Equifax, Experian, Oracle, Acxiom, and many others. 

By acquiring and using customer data, you’ll have the opportunity to drive sales and increase customer retention. Even better, your bottom line will improve and your business will have a better chance of succeeding. There’s no time like the present, so get started now, and watch your revenue go up.

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