Data Explained Part 3 – Collecting Data

18th September 2016

In part 1 of data explained, we looked at what data was and how you can use it to target individuals you want to promote your business to; in part 2 we looked at what data actually looked like and how you can use personal data to drive a direct mail campaign using a service such as Hello Market.

Today I’m going to talk about where and how you can collect customer data that will help you speak to people as individuals when you are contacting them by mail.

Customer Records

It seems impossible these days to buy a product or use a service without handing over our personal details, and although some people refuse to give out personal information, many consumers are quite happy to sign up to and use store cards, discount cards, and online accounts when paying for things.

Capturing data using practices such as these allow businesses to create a record of products and services individuals have purchased and used, or in the case of online stores, information about which products users have browsed to or shown interest in; all of which is invaluable when creating a dynamic direct mail campaign.

All these methods really do is remember who an individual is when they browse or make a purchase and then attach some information to their details. In the case of cards or vouchers there is usually a number that is linked to the person, often called the Customer Reference Number, which identifies a person when they make a purchase or request.

What about small business owners?

Smaller businesses may not have access to store cards and other electronic means of data capture, but this doesn’t mean they don’t collect data; names and addresses are often given freely to car garages, personal care practices, bed and breakfasts, and any businesses that have delivery services such as flower shops or takeaways. These names and addresses can be combined with the purchase information or service the person is using to provide information for your next mailing.

If you’re not currently collecting customer data for your business, perhaps you can think of ways that you could collect it: entries into competitions, vouchers that require a name and address to use, or requesting customer feedback are just a few ways you can get an invaluable insight into your customer’s spending habits.

Most businesses now have access to a computer if not point of sale systems, and even though you may not feel technically minded enough to have a customer database you can write down details and create a customer spreadsheet easily enough using the tools discussed in part 2.


Having a certain level of information about your customers allows you to find other data sources that match your customers profile so you can contact potential customers about specific products they may be interested in based on their similarity to existing customers.

Your customer records may show that most people purchasing a particular product or using a particular service fit a pattern, e.g. people who purchase car service plans are men aged 30-50 living locally; you could use this information to get the details of more men aged 30-50 living locally that you could then mail with details about car service plans.

Online mail solutions such as Hello Market offer access to consumer data with a data selection tool allowing you to enter criteria that will find more of the right customers for your business.


People appreciate that personal touch and will remember a personalised communication long after the generic, mass produced leaflets have hit the recycle bin; in order to create such a mailing you require data, which you can collect using electronic or manual means.

Remember that data is information, but having information won’t help you unless you use it. Think about the types of people who use your business and how they’d like to be contacted; use your data insights to create personalised direct mail campaigns using Hello Market and start improving your response rates and customer loyalty.