Creating and deleting contact data fields

Summary

As well as the default contact data fields already in place in your address books (such as FIRSTNAME, FULLNAME, LASTNAME, etc.), you can create new contact data fields to capture and/or contain additional information about your contacts. The more useful data you can collect on your contacts, the more you can usefully segment, target and personalise your campaigns and in turn generate better response rates.

You can have 246 contact data fields of type 'text', 50 of type 'numeric', 49 of type 'date/time' and 50 of type 'yes/no'. In addition, contact data fields of type 'text' can contain up to 255 characters.

When you create a contact data field, it is added to all of the address books in your account. This way, all of your address books maintain the same structure.

Creating contact data fields

To create a new contact data field, follow these steps:

  1. Select Contacts > Contact data fields from the navigation bar.
  2. Click on the My data fields tab and then click on the New data field button. The 'Create new field' window is displayed.
    create_new_data_field_el.png
  3. Set for each data label:
    • Name: Enter a unique name for this new contact data field. You can't use spaces between words when creating a name for a new field.
    • Data type: This is a dropdown from which you can choose 'Text', 'Numeric', 'Date' and 'Yes/No'.
    • Default value: You can optionally enter a default value for the contact data field in the event that it's not populated after uploading your data. For example, if this was a 'Yes/No' data type, you might set the default value to 'No'.
    • Access: These radio buttons determine who has access to updating this field.
      • 'This data label is public' – will allow your contacts to view/amend the data you hold on them for this contact data field.
      • 'This data label is private' – will allow only users of your account to view/amend data held in this contact data field.
    • Folder: If you've organised them in such a way, you can choose which folder you want to save the contact data field in.
  4. When you have completed the screen, click on the Save button.

You can also create contact data fields in the 'Data fields' tab when viewing and editing a contact.

Deleting contact data fields

You can delete any of the contact data fields you’ve created by clicking on the red cross alongside it, under ‘Delete’. You can’t delete any of the default contact data fields however (FIRSTNAME, FULLNAME, etc.).

Warning - Please bear in mind that deleting a contact data field will also mean deleting any of the data you already have stored under it. In which case, you need to be certain that you don't mind losing the data prior to deleting a contact data field.

If you don’t want to lose any data, export your contacts from the application and then import the data back in after having created the new data field or fields you require.

Changing contact data field properties

You can change the non-critical properties of contact data fields but you aren't allowed to edit the critical properties. If you were able to, it would cause severe problems for your account and our system. 

Critical, non-editable properties are:

  • Name
  • Data type

Non-critical, editable properties are:

  • Default value
  • Access

To change the non-critical properties of your contact data fields, click on the ‘Properties’ icon next to the field of your choice. The box will appear allowing you to set or change the default value and also to change the contact data field to either private or public. Click Save after you have made your change or changes.

There is a good reason why we don't allow you to edit critical properties: if you were able to, existing information you held such as date and time values, stored correctly under a ‘date’ data type, could be then switched to a ‘text’ data type, for example, at which point data type recognition would fail. Furthermore, if you were able to change the name of an existing contact data field, then any existing data mapping would break. This is why they are strictly non-editable. 

If you’re looking to change a name and/or data type, the best way to do this is to delete and then recreate the data field, whilst exporting and then re-importing any data that you wish to keep, as outlined above.

Altering the contact data fields display 

You do have the ability to change your view on the contact data fields page. Click on Display to open up the viewing options.

display_contact_data_fields2_el.png

Here you have the choice to sort contact data fields into ascending/descending order by way of a certain attribute ('Name', 'Data type', 'Access', 'Created' or 'Modified'), determine how many contact data fields are listed on the page, and select which columns to make visible. Click Submit to apply your changes.

For more on contact data fields, you might want to check out How do I create a default value for a contact data field?

Have more questions? Submit a request

Comments

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    Hi, Is there a way to put data fields in specific order..eg First Name-Surname-Street-County.....etc Because when you add fields it just places boxs in random orders?

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    Once created, how do I edit data fields? I'm having difficulty finding these instructions in the system.

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    Hi Beth and Conrad,

    Thanks for your questions and I'd like to answer them both, as they're very good ones! Neither is covered in the above article and really they should be – so thanks for raising them! I will be updating the article to reflect this after I’ve answered you both.

    Firstly - how do you edit data fields? Well, the short answer is that you can't for critical aspects of them but you can for non-critical ones. If you were able to edit the name and data type, it would cause all sorts of knock-on problems for your account and our system. There is a limited amount of changes you can make to non-critical aspects of data fields by clicking on Contacts > Contact data fields and then clicking on the ‘Properties’ icon next to a data field. A box will appear allowing you to set or change the default value and also to change the data field to either private or public.

    However, note that you’re not allowed to edit the name or data type of the data field. If you could, then existing information you hold such as date and time values which are correctly stored under a ‘date’ data type could be switched to a ‘text’ data type, for example, at which point data type recognition fails and untold problems occur! Also, if you were able to change the name of an existing contact data field, then any existing data mapping would break. Needless to say, we don’t want any of this to happen for you!

    If you’re looking to change a name and/or data type, the best thing to do is to delete and then recreate the data field. You can delete any of the data fields you’ve created by clicking on the red cross under ‘Delete’. You can’t delete any of the default data fields such as FIRSTNAME, FULLNAME, LASTNAME, etc.

    Please bear in mind that deleting a contact data field will also mean deleting any of the data you already have stored under it. If you don’t want to lose any data, export your contacts from dotMailer and then import the data back in after having created the new data field or fields you require.

    For more information on data fields, you might want to check out ‘How do I create a default value for a contact data field?’

    Next – are you able to arrange data fields into a specific order? Not as such. You do have options to organise your overall display on the Contact data fields page. Click on DISPLAY and the view expands, giving you options to sort data fields by a certain attribute, determine how many data fields are listed on the page, and to select which columns to make visible. In terms of ordering data fields, you do have various options in the ‘Sort By’ dropdown menu. However, you can’t create a specific order of your choice beyond these options.

    There is an existing feature request for being able to organise contact data fields into groups and in any order, so please add your support to it to push it further up the agenda.

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    How can I create a pre-populated list of data values? (Example, country) I want to avoid various misspellings or values from a text field.

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    Hi Ryan,

    Great idea. While you can't completely lock down a text data field to contain a pre-populated list of data values; there are a few ways you can ensure the data going into it gets an exact match.

    • Use our surveys and forms tool, to create the signup form, and map it to your dotMailer data fields.
    • Edit the HTML created by the signup form

    There's a discussion of how to do this on this feature request:

    https://support.dotmailer.com/entries/20920971-Drop-down-field-in-Sign-up-form

    You may also need a solution for how to keep this up to date, this may include:

    • A customised preference centre, so that contacts cannot overwrite your spelling of the country
    • A data cleaning process, so that you can identify contacts with a country that's not in the list you've prescribed - this may be as simple as creating a segment for the relevant contacts, or something more advanced
  • Avatar

    Why can't I see the x to delete ?

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    Hi Rick,

    Sounds like it may be the case that you're trying to delete one of the default contact data fields? These can't be deleted. Only non-default contact data fields can be deleted, and these have the red cross available alongside them.

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    What are the field sizes for the Data types?

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    Contact data fields of type 'text' can contain up to 255 characters.

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    Hi. It is preventing us from adding a new data field. It tells me that the "Name already exists or is reserved".

    The data field in question does not appear on the list. Are there names that are not allowed or is there a limit to the number of data fields we can have in one account?

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    Hi. How can I populate custom data fields while sending a test email to a test-contact. When I create a test contact, it only asks for First and Last name. Please advise.

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    Secondly, how can I increase length of a custom (text) field?

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    Hi Shawn,

    So I'm able to answer your questions as best I can, I just want to clarify the following:

    1. Are you looking to personalise a campaign in a test send using custom contact data fields? If the contact that you want to test send to already exists within your 'All contacts' address book, then any custom contact data fields they already have populated are ready to be used for personalisation.

    If you're looking to add a new test email address that doesn't already exist within your 'All contacts' book, then you can't populate custom contact data fields via this route, no. However, once they're in your 'All contacts' address book (which happens after adding them to your test address book), you'll then be able to populate their custom contact data fields by editing a contact record.

    1. Are you looking to increase the length of a contact data field? The maximum length is 255 characters and it's not possible to increase this. Or do you mean the name of the contact data field? The maximum length for this is 20 characters and again it's not possible to increase it. 
  • Avatar

    Thank you Neal

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