Data Quality

What is data deduplication?

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Data deduplication, also known as dedup or dedupe, is a term used a lot in teams that work with data. But what does it mean?

At its simplest level, data deduplication refers to the removal or deletion of redundant records. It’s a process that removes extra or excessive copies of data in your database so that only the singular piece of data remains in the master data.

Redundant data can harm your business processes and strategy. In fact, we found that 48% of businesses report that duplicate data seriously impairs their ability to fully leverage their CRM system. Meanwhile, 60% of businesses cite duplicate data as the marketing department’s biggest obstacle when pulling campaign lists and 73% cite it as their biggest obstacle when evaluating campaign performance.

Data deduplication carries a multitude of benefits including improving sales and marketing campaigns, customer engagement and overall ROI. Once data deduplication is completed, only one copy of each record is stored to improve your data quality.

As a process, data deduplication can occur as data is being created or modified and/or as a background activity that is implemented to run on-demand or at defined, scheduled intervals. However you choose to address duplicates, it’s essential to have a deduplication plan or they’ll overwhelm your business.

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Types of data deduplication solutions

When looking for data deduplication services, there are three types of solutions that you can consider to find the best fit for your organization. These include:

  • On-demand: The user goes in and runs a data tool to find and merge any data duplications. 
  • Automated: The user takes their trusted deduplication scenarios and sets them to run on a cadence. 
  • Preventative: The user has a duplicate blocker that manages the duplications as they come in from end-user entry, web forms, system integration and list imports. 

A well- rounded deduplication approach will include all three techniques to ensure duplicates are identified and remediated as soon as possible. 

Validity DemandTools detects,  eliminates, and prevents duplicate records from misleading your sales and marketing teams and causing friction in your customer journey.

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How does data deduplication work?

Deduplication processes work best when they are a consistent part of your daily business operations as opposed to being considered a project to tackle only a few times a year. Data is consistently increasing as more and more information is gathered each day and a strong deduplication discipline is the only way to prevent duplicate records from clogging up your database.

For duplicate prevention, a duplicate key is assigned for each record. Each duplicate key is created based on the preset fields and matching algorithms used to identify matching records. Then, when another record is entered (or edited) with a matching key, the dupe is identified and is either blocked from entering the database, automatically merged with the existing record or is sent to the system administrator with a warning to review.

On-demand deduplication also uses a set of fields and matching algorithms to determine if data records are unique or duplicates but only when initiated by the end-user. In this form of deduplication, the duplicate key is not stored on the record. When initiated, on-demand deduplication scans the existing records in your database and presents the user with a list of identified duplicates to merge. This is an extremely helpful technique for consistent data quality maintenance.

Automatic deduplication occurs when the fields and matching algorithms used in your on-demand deduplication are saved and set to run on a schedule. Duplicate prevention is also a way of automating your deduplication strategy but having both in place will keep you ahead of the duplicates that will inevitably try to make their way into your database. Match parameters can be shared between your duplicate prevention techniques and on-demand approach making the setup of both much easier.

It’s important to note that no data is deleted until pertinent information from the losing record has been moved onto the winning record (the record that stays in your database).

However, database management can be tricky as duplicate records regularly occur within your business’s database and it takes proactive effort and planning to remove the redundant duplicate data and carry out a successful merge process.

Your business should prioritize an exact plan for merging duplicate records that fully details solutions to all impacted subsystems. Below are some helpful questions to answer before implementing record deduplication and merging:

  • What subsystems will be impacted by merging?
  • How does your team want the merge process to function in your platform?
  • How many steps will be involved in the merging process?
  • What conflicting data points should be kept between duplicates and why?

See how Akamai deduplicated their Salesforce data 300x faster with DemandTools. 

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When can data deduplication be implemented?

It’s always the right time to implement a deduplication strategy.

Data deduplication doesn’t have to coincide with a system implementation or data migration to be successful or useful. While all three approaches to duplicate management — preventative, on-demand and automated — will give you a well-rounded approach it’s important to implement them under a defined process.

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On-demand deduplication

Many organizations will start by cleaning up the existing records to get an understanding of the considerations they need to make as they manage this movement and consolidation of data. Once they have a set of on-demand scenarios in place identifying and merging duplicates based on their unique needs, those same principles can then be used to fuel their hands-off preventative approach and automation.
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Preventative deduplication

Instead of starting with on-demand deduplication, some organizations put their preventative solution in place first and set it to report the identified duplicates. This empowers them to see how the data being entered is causing duplicates and how best to prevent them without actually merging or changing the data.

Starting with an on-demand or preventative approach is purely decided by preference or need.

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What are the benefits of deduplication?

Data deduplication plays a critical role in effective data management strategy, requiring consistent transferring and storing of new data. Below are some of the benefits of data deduplication:
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Decrease costs

Deduplicating data immediately cuts costs in vital areas of your business ranging from system administration to employee churn.

  • Data storage costs. Deduplicating your database prevents it from being bloated with redundant records that needlessly drive-up data storage costs while also freeing up room for new data to enter.
  • Data verification costs. When it comes to data verification it is always a best practice to dedupe data first to keep from paying for the same record to be verified multiple times.
  • New hire onboarding costs. In a recent study, Validity found that 71% of respondents from over 600 organizations surveyed would consider leaving their current role if additional resources are not allocated to a robust data quality plan.
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Improve sales and marketing campaigns

Deduplication helps to increase the accuracy of your organization’s insights, which also work to improve your customer engagement and experience.

When your data is filled with redundant information, it derails your sales and marketing efforts. For example, if one of your customers has their information inadvertently added more than once as a Lead in your system, it can mean that they receive duplicate messages or worse, have multiple sales reps contacting them, creating confusion and friction in the customer journey. This can seriously hurt their opinion of your organization. Multiply this experience across your customer base and your brand reputation will only be harmed by your sales and marketing campaigns rather than improved.

Data deduplication removes this threat and instead provides your sales and marketing teams with the most accurate data it can — ultimately improving your brand’s overall operations.

73%

of companies say unstandardized and/or duplicate data is their marketing department’s biggest obstacle when evaluating campaign performance

*(source Validity research State of Data Health 2022)

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Increase return on investment

Implementation of effective data deduplication will always have a high return on investment (ROI) for your business — right from the start. By eliminating redundant data, you’ll be able to decrease your overall storage costs, data verification costs and marketing costs on direct mail campaigns, which were previously draining your budgets and resources.

Data deduplication also streamlines data processes as accurate, high-quality data is readily available for your teams, which will reduce downtime and increase their trust in the data. When employees feel confident that they’re working with up-to-date, accurate data, they’re able to work more efficiently and create new strategies to improve your organization.

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