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The five essentials of collecting contact data


I  am my own Primal Parent, Photo © Dom Moore

This article will cover:

  • Is customer contact data capture my priority?
  • What data should I be collecting?
  • What do I need to know about GDPR, PECR and contact data capture?
  • What is leaky bucket syndrome?
  • What about third party and data sharing?

Is customer contact data capture my priority?

Growing and maintaining an accurate customer database is ‘business-critical’, and customer data is one of the most valuable assets in your organisation. Poor customer relationship management (CRM) can make your customers lose confidence, and interest in your product or service. You can increase or maintain your customer engagement by managing your contact data effectively, and giving your contacts the right communication at the right time.

Good CRM starts with data and understanding the various stages in the customer journey. The loyalty funnel helps us to visualise these stages. The AIDA model is a simplified variation with an easy acronym to remember, standing for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action, which mirrors the process that new contacts go through when signing up.

The AIDA Model

One of the most common ways for potential customers to find out more is to visit your website. If your new contacts like what they see on your website, you’ll be looking to move them on to the next stage in their engagement journey.

The acquisition of new customers is five times more expensive than the retention of existing customers, so it’s important that potential customers don’t leave your website without giving you the means to contact them. So, whilst income generation is often a priority for websites, contact data capture comes a close second.

Example of a subscribe button

What contact data should I be collecting?

The information you decide to collect will vary for each organisation. To work out what data you should be collecting, start by defining what you need and how you will use it, for example:

  • Which audience do you want to reach? – E.g., Families, schools
  • What data do you need? – E.g., First name, Last name, Email address, Postcode
  • Where is the best point to collect this data? – On first sign-up, at the email verification stage, at a preference page or centre
  • Should you segment? – What information about your contacts could help you send your customers more personalised, relevant comms? E.g. interested in family and children’s activities

It’s helpful to consider the customer’s expectations; the details needed to sign up for a mailing/email list shouldn’t be as extensive as the information needed to purchase a ticket or register for an event. Generally, signing up for a mailing/email list requires a light touch with more details collected at a later stage (at email verification or in your preference centre) so that you don’t put people off and lose them.

When collecting data, every extra field can have a cost in terms of abandoned interactions whether at sign-up/onboarding or transactions. In research, three fields of information scored 25% conversion sign-ups; four fields scored less than 20% conversion sign up (source: Hubspot). The higher the number of fields, the lower the conversion sign-up rate. Limiting the number of fields to just three can guarantee a minimum conversion rate of 25%, meaning more people will complete your form and share their information. Consider staggering your data capture, allowing further profile information and data to be built upon as the customer relationship develops.

What do I need to know about GDPR/PECR and contact data capture?

Now would be a good time to mention the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The key concepts underpinning GDPR are:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimisation
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  • Accountability

GDPR concerns itself with accountability, transparency, and fairness. Although all the GDPR principles apply to contact data capture, one of the most common issues that crop up is data minimisation, understanding that you can’t collect information that you don’t have a use for. You should identify the minimum amount of personal data that you need to fulfill your purpose, and hold that much information, but no more. Is the contact data that you are collecting adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary for that purpose?

PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) sits alongside GDPR and there is some overlap. In terms of contact data capture, you should be aware that you must not send email marketing to individuals, unless they have specifically consented to receive emails from you, or they are existing customers who bought a similar product or service from you in the past. It is important to give your existing customers a simple way to opt out, both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent.

The exception to sending unsolicited emails is in B2B (business to business). For corporate contacts, PECR states that: You don’t need consent if you are marketing to a corporate subscriber. But you will need to say who you are and tell people how they can unsubscribe/opt-out from receiving further marketing from you. Such ‘corporate subscribers’ are typically limited companies, but can also include schools, hospitals, government departments or agencies.

What is leaky bucket syndrome?

Make every contact count: Positive interaction at any touchpoint with your organisation is a chance to invite your contact to opt-in. Beware of the leaky bucket syndrome where you are generating interest amongst potential customers but not capturing their contact data – don’t get trapped in a cycle of generating awareness but not developing your customer base.

In general, websites generate the largest number of sign-ups and conversion rates vary between 2% to 5%. To calculate your sign-up conversion rate:


Many organisations put the sign-up at the bottom of the web page where the majority of visitors may not see it. Because contact data capture is so valuable, consider testing different positions on your website and adding them to your main navigation menu. The use of QR codes has facilitated the quick sign up and the tracking they offer helps to identify the source of new sign-ups.

And, remember that Social media contact data belongs to the social media providers – you only ‘own’ the contact data and relationship once people sign up with you!

What about third-party and data sharing?

There are times when the relationship between a customer and your organisation may not be one-dimensional. There may be other parties or organisations involved. Some common examples include a promoter and a venue, an artist and a venue, or co-promotions. In these cases, the processes for the collection of contact data (and access to other data/metrics) are best made explicit at the contractual stage. Providing the collection of sign-up contact data is transparent to customers, whereby customers can opt-in and there is a legitimate interest, it becomes the customer’s decision as to what future relationship and content they want to engage with.

One way of legitimately ‘sharing’ data is to organise a quid pro quo (like-for-like exchange) with an organisation that holds contact data that might also be interested in what you offer. The most common example is including information in your newsletter in return for the other party to include information about you in their newsletter.

And finally…

‘With great power comes great responsibility’* – your organisation’s contact data is valuable and you ‘own’ it. Make each interaction count for your organisation and own and use your data responsibly. (*Spiderman)

What’s next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you or your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

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