Today’s globalization is felt everywhere. We have manufacturing in one place, assembling in another,  shipping around the globe. Companies’ offices and data warehouses spreaded all over the world. It creates lots of opportunities and advantages but difficulties as well. The marketers face challenges in coping with variety of differences across countries. Collected data becomes global. International data is what the modern marketers are dealing with today. You may say that technology is making tremendous progress, however, global data quality presents a challenge. As any data, it should be clean, complete, updated and accurate to help maintain a successful business.

Here are some aspects that need to addressed when dealing with the global data:

  • Languages – Global data consists of records written in various languages. Alphabets are specific for each country. Latin, non Latin characters, texts written from left to right and from right to left, specific characters and additions represent a whole world of varieties that are not easy to be dealt with.
  • Postal address writing traditions: There are different formats of writing of the address across countries. In North America people start their address with the house number followed by a street name, state and country. But in Russia, for example, the address begins with country name and ends with house and street names.  To standardize the address format is not an easy task. Also you need to ensure that the address itself is correct.
  • Zip/Postal Codes: There are zip codes, postal codes, indexes in international postal practice. In countries like Bahamas, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Mali and Qatar no codes exist. It creates an issue with the zip or postal code field when it is a mandatory field and data completeness needs to be calculated without losing the data.
  • Phone Numbers – Countries’ phone systems differ. They include country codes, area codes and, sometimes, mobile codes. Phone numbers inconsistency across the world presents one more problem regarding global data. For example, in the US the same phone number may be written as (541) 123-4567, or +1- 541-123-4567, or 1- 541-123-4567, or 001- 541-123-4567. Imagine, that you need to use the phone number for duplicates establishment, or you are installing a customer service automatic dialer. It creates a huge challenge for the CRM team as well.
  • Money – Every country has its own currency. Payment field may consist of US dollars, UK Pounds, Yens, Euros, etc. Dealing with such data is a tricky task. It requires recalculating based on one currency type, using a set up exchange rate. Also it is important to keep track of the dates when the data has been collected.
  • Privacy Policies – Privacy laws and rules are not only different around the world but may experience changes and additions form time to time. Some require double opt-in, others do not have such rules at all. In the data it is important to monitor who is affected by privacy policies. It is crucial only not to know every country privacy rules but understand their impact on Email marketing. In some cases it is hard even to figure out a country of living.

Our world is so diverse that sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a person’s first and last name. Last name characters count may exceed the field length and, thus, written not in full.  

All mentioned aspects of global data represent certain challenges.

Realizing problems is one important part. Another task is to clean the data dealing with these issues and create strict rules to administer the database. For example, all currency is inputted in US dollars, other currencies are converted on the day of record creation. Another rule is to keep all data written in English. Other languages are being promptly translated prior to the input.

The rules’ set up is an important step required to start most common data cleaning. Other data cleansing steps include:

Records deduplication – It starts with the establishing of the rules relevant to your business. For example, you can dedupe your data based on the rules that all data is shown in English and dedupe within the same country.

Data standardization – It is very important to maintain your data consistency for further segmentation, personalization and data analysis. The most common example of data standardization is when ‘USA’, ‘US’, ‘United States of America’ are all written as one standard ‘US’ across your data. Running marketing campaign having all variations in your data without standardization will lead to all types of discrepancies including wrong analysis and incorrect takeaways.

Data Appending – Missing data needs to be added to maintain data accuracy. Third party providers may be of help in finding missing phone numbers, zip codes, etc. International data is more complex to be handled. There are a few good quality providers that you can rely on. For example, B2B Marketers can address D&B.  B2C, it is a bit harder.  

Outdated and Fake Data Cleaning – Outdated and bogus records require special attention. The damage caused by fake or old data may include bounced Email, wrong person targeting, etc. Dealing with spam is regulated differently in the world. Some laws allow to contact a customer only once a year, some have an unlimited time frame. Another big obstacle is that it is extremely hard to detect bogus bogus data.

Data Verification – ‘Dirty’ data leads to incorrect outcomes. It is vital to verify the accuracy of your records. Some fields, like the Email field, may be easy to check and validate. It is a more complex task to deal with phone numbers’ and addresses’ verifications. You can suggest to add a checkbox field that will flag the verified records to help DB admins and marketers. Complete verification may sound impossible, however, it is necessary to verify as much as possible.

It is not easy but crucial to keep global data clean and updated. Hire a reputable data cleaning provider to improve your international data quality and improve your ROI of your marketing initiatives.