When Will Your Consumer Data Expire?

These days, following best practices for consumer data is like chasing a moving target. With data privacy laws constantly evolving and consumer data platforms setting individual data retention policies, it’s not easy to know when to use your data. 

Google Analytics, the gold standard for gathering consumer data from websites, has a data retention policy that outlines how long consumer data will be kept before it’s wiped from servers:  

While the retention period and user-activity reset controls cover event and user-level data stored by Google Analytics, certain user-keyed data (such as age, gender, interests) is by default deleted by Google Analytics after six months of inactivity for a given user for a Universal Analytics property or after two months for a Google Analytics 4 property.

The takeaway? The clock is ticking on using your consumer data. 

Even if these changes aren’t taking place, how would you use the information you’ve collected? If you know a customer visited your website twice six months ago and converted once, for example, is that still meaningful information?

We recently conducted a research study to determine how professionals view these changes and how they currently gather and use data. Not only do marketers need to know about platforms’ data retention policies, but they also need to know if and when data is useful for their marketing and sales initiatives. Consumer data is powerful when it’s used right, and timing is everything.

We’ve already shared why our research suggests first-party data is the future and how you can upgrade your tech stack. In today’s blog, we’ll help you get the most out of your consumer data before it’s no longer useful (or disappears from your Google Analytics account).

Marketers Weigh in on Expiration Dates

Our research shows the average marketer believes consumer data is good for nine months. Nearly one in five say six months is when this data expires, and one in three marketers keep data from 1-3 years before they think it needs a refresh. 

If you’re in the group that thinks you can use consumer data for 1-3 years, it’s important to consider your sales cycle. Sales cycles can take weeks to a year or more depending on the industry, product, service and audience. Real-time, responsive data is essential to understanding what’s happening at every stage of the cycle and making informed decisions. Having a strategic mindset is key, especially with your consumer data. 

Consider the average length of a marketing campaign. How effective can your marketing be if you use data from nine months ago to inform your campaign strategy?

Challenges arise and become harder to overcome without data that integrates into your sales and marketing initiatives. If this sounds familiar, know you’re not alone.  

About one in three marketers face data-related challenges, including having the skills necessary to use data effectively and working with multiple siloed data sources. Fortunately, solving data challenges can be simple if you know where to gather data, what to gather, and when to use data.

When to Refresh Consumer Data

Knowing how long your data is good for all depends on your data source. 

Social media can be a great source of first-party data for marketers transitioning away from paid third-party options. Shares, likes and comments can give you deep insights into your audience, but refreshing social media data every nine months isn’t useful because it’s one of the fastest-moving data targets. Instead, aim to refresh your data every 30-60 days. By engaging your audience with whitepapers and contests, you can entice them to fill out a form so you can collect contact details. 

Email is another source of reliable data that you should utilize during the transition away from third-party data. Knowing open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and other email engagement data points can help you understand your audience better. We recommend hitting your list once a month. 

Additionally, make sure you are segmenting your list as well. If you have inactive contacts, move them to a re-engagement campaign. If they aren’t engaged, they could be hurting your overall deliverability.

Pulling data from your website is a must to understand consumers’ journeys in a post-third-party data world. A CDP platform allows you to store information such as names, addresses and demographics, plus behavioral data like purchase history and unique page visits — all of which can inform sales and marketing strategies. Once your tech stack is working seamlessly, revisit this data at least every quarter (if not more).

You can utilize many different consumer data sources, but the data retention strategy varies. Use consumer engagement frequency to gauge how often you should look at the data yourself. For example, most customers use social media daily but may only visit your website once or twice a month.

Best Practices for Using and Storing Consumer Data

It’s often a challenge to make meaning of all this data and synthesize it into one hub. Our research shows that to help, about two in three marketers use a CRM, database software or spreadsheets to store and organize customer data. 

If you have 100 to 200 contacts, doing this manually might be time-consuming, but it’s also low-cost. On the other hand, a high quantity of data leaves room for human error, which could make the data unusable. When you have more contacts, you may consider a service like Zapier or all-in-one solutions like HubSpot to sync data back and forth. This also takes out the risk of human error.

Mastering First-Party Data

Transitioning from dependence on third-party data to creating your own first-party data takes time. Be patient with this process, and remember that taking small steps over time is better than doing nothing or trying one giant leap when it’s too late. 

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s common for marketers to lack data skills or have knowledge gaps. Consider hiring a data specialist to make the transition easier and keep your marketing and sales departments agile during changing times. 

 To learn more about the research study, check out our entire Executive Summary. And to explore the data yourself, check it out here.