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Data Collection is About Quality Over Quantity

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

Stop trying to collect 50 pieces of information that you won’t use

By Billion Photos

Companies have always put a focus on collecting data for the purpose of delivering targeted marketing. The phrase direct marketing was coined by Lester Wunderman in 1958 and you can go back to Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872 who created the first mail-order business to look at people targeting. The problem is that companies got carried away and collected more and more data. However, there are 3 very good reasons why you should collect LESS data.

You Are More Likely to Get Data

Put yourself in the users' position, as all good marketers (or indeed business owners) should, and look at the forms you’ve got live. Would you fill them out? Would you start to question why you need to tell someone how much you earn and what degree you have, just to watch a webinar or read a newsletter?

It’s important that you focus on the data that makes the user think “I know why they asked that”, rather than filling up a database. Users are a lot savvier nowadays and they know what you are doing by asking lots of questions. They are far more aware of what happens with data thanks to both the Cambridge Analytica scandal and generally being more aware of what happens in digital marketing, which is far more accessible to users than traditional marketing.

So don’t take the risk of (a) the user not completing the task you want them to do and (b) the user passing you no data at all. All just to collect a few extra fields that you ‘might’ use at some point.

So think really carefully about what data you actually need and focus on what the user will feel comfortable with.

You Already Have Better Data

The sort of data we’ve been talking about is collected from the user. This can be done in various ways — sign up forms, competitions, microsites, call centres, even in person. But you already have access to other data, which is better in many ways.

Behavioural data is collected about key actions on a website, it can be about the products you view, right through to the detail of every single page visited. This data is collected in your CDP, in your Marketing Automation software, through your analytics provider. However you access this powerful data, it has the potential to tell you more about your customer than any data you intentionally collect.

This style of data can be used in predictive analytics as well, so not only painting a picture of the user but anticipating their future needs. So focus on the data you already have access before you spend time and money on collecting more data you won’t use.


Sorry to give the boring answer, but the GDPR has to come into your thinking when you decide on the data you collect. A big part of the spirit behind the GDPR is about only collecting the data needed and storing only what’s needed. It’s about treating your users with respect and whenever you collect data, think about the user and think why they should give you that information. What genuine benefit will they get?

Are you going to use the information to improve their experience or make the site more usable? Then you are collecting data for the right reasons. If it’s solely to upsell more products, then it goes against where the industry is going and what users want. If you collect and use data to improve the experience, you will eventually get more sales anyway.

The user now has control

It’s important to remember that we are now living in a world where users have more control. They can request access to any data you hold. They can legally challenge you not just for illegally holding data but if you don’t have a proper audit of where the data was collected.

So, put all of your focus on responsibly collecting data and just the data that you genuinely need. Know how you are going to use the data before you collect it, put in place a data plan — more on that another time…

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