January 27, 2011, 11:53 AM

Most marketers are dubious about the quality of their customer data

E-mail volume from e-retailers rose 16% last year, but dirty data bedevils communication.

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Do you give your e-mail contact database a good and regular scrubbing? Four out of five U.S. companies say they have a documented data quality strategy, but 89% of them still suspect that their customer data may be inaccurate, according to Experian QAS, a vendor of software and services that help companies keep contact data up to date.

Respondents to an Experian QAS survey suspect that as much as 24% of their total records may have errors, which 26% of total respondents say lead to the loss of potential customers. Moreover, 30% say they feel that those errors may have negatively impacted customer perceptions of their company.

In 2010, online retailers sent an average of 152 e-mail marketing messages to each consumer who signed up to receive e-mail, up 16% from 2009, according to Responsys, an e-mail marketing services vendor. Higher e-mail volume may only increases the money being wasted by sending messages to wrong or outdated addresses. According to the Experian survey, respondents say they waste an average of 15% of their communication budgets due to bad data.

73% of U.S. businesses use at least one manual approach to scrubbing contact data, such as analyzing contact information on spreadsheets or sorting through e-mail messages that bounce. The Experian research shows, however, that companies are improving their methods, such as by contracting with outside vendors to help them clean up customer information. The firm says 81% of U.S. organizations have upgraded their data management systems in the last two years. 

Experian surveyed 1,320 representatives from retail, finance, government, manufacturing, education, utilities and travel industries in December.

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