The amount of data created and replicated has reached new heights. According to recent reports from Statista, the total volume of data captured, copied, and consumed globally was 64.2 zettabytes in 2020. It is further predicted to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025. This abundance of data might be overwhelming if a business doesn’t know where to begin.
Besides, how do you ensure that the data being used is relevant to the business problems you aim to solve? After all, a data-based decision is as strong as the data it is based on—and one sure way is to collect data yourself.
Basics of Data Collection
In practice, data collection is the methodological process of gathering information on a specific subject. It’s vital to ensure that the data is complete during the aggregation phase and is collected legally and ethically. If not, the subsequent analysis won’t be accurate and may have far-reaching consequences.
Broadly, there are three types of consumer as listed here:
- First-party data is collected directly from users by the organization.
- Second-party data is shared by another company about its customers
- Third-party data is collected and rented or sold by companies that do not have a connection to your organization or users.
Though there are multiple use cases for second and third-party data, data collected first- handedly or first-party data is more valuable. Stakeholders receive information about how their audience behaves, thinks, and feels—all of this from a trusted source.
Data can either be quantitative (meaning numeric in nature) or qualitative (meaning contextual in nature). Many data collection methods apply to both types, some are better suited to one than the other.
Data collection is the second step in the data life cycle and lays a foundation for intelligent decision-making. After data is generated, it must be collected legally and ethically so that it can be processed, stored, managed, analyzed, and visualized properly to enhance your organization’s bottom-line efficiency.
Apart from this, there are several key factors stakeholders must define before gathering data. These factors are elucidated below:
- The question that is to be answered
- The data subject(s) that are to be collected from the data
- The collection time frame that must be followed
- The data collection methods that best suit the business needs
Putting it simply, the offline and online data collection methods businesses select must be according to the question they want to answer, the type of data needed, the time frame, as well as the company’s budget.
Importance of Data Collection
Data collection is an integral part of a business’s success—its accuracy, completeness, and relevance help you resolve and fix the organizational issues at hand. Plus, the information gathered allows companies to analyze past strategies as well as stay informed on what needs to change. The management can stay hyper aware of their organization’s efforts and take informed actions to improve various workflows right from altering marketing strategies to assessing customer complaints.
Basing decisions on irrelevant and inaccurate data can impede efforts and have far-reaching negative consequences. Therefore, it’s important to trust your own web data collection methods and abilities. Accurate data collection empowers business professionals to be confident in their decisions.
Data Collection Methods
Surveys are digital or physical questionnaires that collect both qualitative and quantitative data from different subjects. You have to get attendee feedback after an event, let’s say, you might conduct a survey. Stakeholders get a sense of what attendees enjoyed, what could be done differently, areas of improvement, etc.
Physical copies of surveys can be sent to participants, but online surveys present the opportunity for wide-scale distribution. These are inexpensive as running a survey cost nothing; provided you use a free tool.
- Transactional Tracking
Tracking the data each time your customers make a purchase allows management to understand their customer base better and make informed marketing decisions. eCommerce and point-of-sale platforms generally allow you to store data as soon as it’s generated, making transactional tracking a seamless data collection method that pays off in the form of customer insights.
- Interviews & Focus Groups
Subjects talk face-to-face about a specific issue or topic in focus groups and interviews—wherein focus groups are typically made up of several people and interviews tend to be one-on-one. Both these methods can be used to gather qualitative and quantitative data.
Through focus groups and interviews, companies can gather feedback from people in their target audience about new product/service offerings. Recording their reactions and responses to questions while they react to your product in real-time provides valuable data about which features to pursue.
One downside of conducting focus groups and interviewing is they can be expensive and time-consuming. Conducting it yourself can be a lengthy process. So, to avoid this, businesses can invest in customized data collection solutions to organize and conduct interviews.
Observing people when they interact with your website or product offers huge candor. It can be witnessed in real-time if the user experience is confusing or difficult. Though less accessible than other data collection methods, observations allow businesses to gather firsthand experience on how users interact with their product or site. The qualitative and quantitative info gleaned from observation can be used to make improvements and double down on points of success.
- Online Tracking
Pixels and cookies can be implemented to gather behavioral data. Both these tools track users’ online behavior across different websites and provide insights into what content they typically engage with and are interested in. This helps businesses to improve their website’s design and help users seamlessly navigate to their destination.
Inserting a pixel is relatively easy to set up and often free. Cookie implementation may come with a fee but it is worth it for the quality of data received in return. Once cookies and pixels are set, they collect data on their own and don’t need much maintenance.
Another important thing to note is tracking online behavior has ethical and legal privacy implications. Therefore, companies must ensure they comply with local and industry data privacy standards before tracking users’ online behavior.
Online forms are fit for collecting qualitative data about users, specifically, contact information or demographic data. These are simple to set up and relatively inexpensive and can be used to gate registrations or content, such as email newsletters and webinars.
Plus, this data can be used to contact people who may be interested in your product/service, in re marketing efforts such as email workflows and content recommendations, and build demographic profiles of existing customers.
- Social Media Monitoring
Monitoring a company’s social media channels for follower engagement is one of the accessible ways to track data about the audience’s interests and motivations. Many platforms have inbuilt analytics, but there are third-party social platforms also that provide more detailed, organized insights gauged from multiple channels.
This data can determine which issues are most important to the followers. For example, you might notice that the number of engagements dramatically increases when a company posts about its sustainability efforts.
Understanding the different data collection methods available helps businesses decide which is best for their budget, timeline, and the question aiming to answer. When stored together, multiple data types gathered through different methods provide an informed picture of the subjects and help make better business decisions.