By Melissa Donovan
Data hygiene is critical to effective personalized marketing. Sending information to outdated and misspelled names or including the wrong address results in poor response rates. Direct mail responses continue to decline and marketers need to fight for efficiency in direct mail.
At a recent conference in November 2013, the United States Postal Service (USPS) reported that Undeliverable-as-Address (UAA) mail had an average yearly decline from 1981 to 2012 of -3.59 percent. In 2012 alone, UAA declined -3.72 percent, up .13 from the average.
Today’s mailing solutions directly affect this statistic. Clean data is an important part of the mailing process and a number of key practices and tools help generate accurate mailings. Print and marketing service providers remain savvy and rely on up-to-date processes to maintain quality data.
Among the available tools, software solutions leverage those recommended or certified by the USPS—aiding marketers and print providers in making the most of their mailings. Some of these procedures include National Change of Address (NCOALink) Database, Deceased Processing, Data Append to Correct Data, Merge/Purge, Apartment Append, The Mail Preference System, Prison Suppression, and Proprietary Change of Address.
Anchor Software, LLC provides solutions for all of the above procedures. Its USPS Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certified solution, MaxCASS, provides address correction/validation and address-related appends. This includes ZIP+4, a Delivery Point Validation (DPV) flag, business suite correction and append information, Locatable Address Conversion System (LACSLink) information, and a Residential Delivery Indicator flag.
MaxMover provides NCOALink information for 18 and 48 month moves, with an option to flag 48 month moves for mailers using 18 month move data from USPS. MaxDup, a Merge/Purge solution, is used after addresses are corrected, standardized, and deceased individuals removed. Name and address hygiene enhances the duplicate detection process. Suppression files, such as Prison Suppression, Mail Preference from DMA, and other in-house files, can be incorporated into the Merge/Purge process from suppression to final output.
Experian Data Quality incorporates many data management procedures. Proprietary Change of Address, Apartment Append, and The Mail Preference System are all provided through standard NCOALink processing. Its QAS NameSearch is used for Merge/Purge. Additionally, the data and name matching software incorporates high-end matching and duplication identification capabilities.
Experian provides Data Append to Correct Data, which allows customers to tell the type of address—business or personal; what congressional district that address is located within; and the latitude and longitude of the given address.
Melissa Data is a USPS NCOALink Full Service provider, offering 48 and 24 month package options of 160 million change-of-address records. Mailing lists are processed in batch, automated FTP, real-time Web service, or through mailing software. The company offers Deceased Processing and Inmate Suppression as part of its Data Enhancement and List Hygiene Services.
Data Append is easy with Melissa Data’s Web service, Personator. It cross references the validity of data by verifying that all the elements of a customer record correspond to the other. Personator Move is a cloud-based service that utilizes multi-sourced data sets to provide current addresses for individuals and companies that have moved in the last 30 days or more.
For a Mail Preference System, Melissa Data offers its MAILERS+4 software, which verifies and standardizes addresses, deduplicates customer lists, and presorts mailings. Featuring CASS processing, it includes DPV, LACSLink, SuiteLink, Vacant Table, and EWS. Intelligent Mail barcode and Mail.dat technology is also incorporated.
The Satori Software Move Update service enables customers to process lists of at least 100 unique names and addresses against the full USPS 48-month NCOALink dataset. Records are run through the company’s mailing software—Satori Architect, eliminating the need to manually export, import, and merge the changes back into address lists. Records can also be processed through Web services’ APIs or a customized FTP, depending on list size.
SmartAddresser from SmartSoft includes built-in Merge/Purge as part of the core product, which allows customers to purge their mailing lists against third party databases such as Prison Suppression, deceased lists, and the mail preference system prior to mailing.
Mailing company’s require clean data for success. Sub-Zero, a WI-based manufacturer of refrigerators and freezers, is often challenged with maintaining data quality for customers that learn about the brand through various scenarios.
Receiving multiple inquiries from residential households before and after they were customers—and through different channels—meant Sub-Zero needed a unique identifier to match households with accounts. With the most effective method being a postal address, the company struggled to capture and maintain the information, as a customer might write out their street as “First Street” and in one instance and “1st St.” in another.
To remedy the problem, Sub-Zero supplemented its current customer relationship management software with Satori Architect—formerly knows as MailRoom ToolKit. The solution runs behind the scenes, verifying addresses and changing them to the USPS CASS preferred format. Then an accurate deduplication process is put into effect to eliminate confusion and mistakes.
More Important than the Other
Is one data cleansing process more important than the other? Not really say the experts, especially when many procedures are mandated by the USPS.
“All of the processes listed are important for standard maintenance of existing databases. For regular mailings seeking USPS automation discounts, basic CASS and NCOALink processing are mandatory. If you’re working with incorporating new data into an existing database, Merge/Purge is an important process as well,” recommends Anthony Aruldoss, director of product management, Anchor Software.
“For each industry and requirement type there are a number of priorities on what data assets would represent the most return on investment (ROI). The importance of each of the data hygiene/processing services is dependent on what the individual company wants to achieve and how they want to utilize the results,” adds Rishi Patel, professional services manager, Experian.
The details of a particular direct mail campaign may determine whether certain data hygiene processes are run, and whether the mailer wants to pay for each of them. “A print service provider should at least offer them wherever possible, and promote the benefits and cost savings that having a clean, up-to-date mailing list provides to a mailer,” says Tony Tarpey, VP, marketing, SmartSoft Inc.
Accuracy in Action
The University of Connecticut (UConn) relies on accurate mailing information to reach potential donors. With the amount of its returned mail growing, the UConn Foundation wanted to improve address accuracy while cleaning its database.
It reached out to Experian and implemented the company’s data verification software in conjunction with its central database. Each time a contact is added, the information is verified in real time. Additional tools help maintain list quality, search for duplicate entries, and CASS certify.
With the software in use, the UConn Foundation now boasts a 90 percent mail accuracy rate.
Business’ data needs differ. Required cleaning procedures depend on a number of factors. While flexibility is an option for some of the processes, others are regulated by a specific timeline from the USPS.
For example, NCOALink processing must be done at least every 90 days to maintain USPS compliance. While it is required, it also the one tool you want to use, according to Greg Brown, VP of marketing, Melissa Data. “In most cases, the NCOALink service is the most cost-effective way to obtain change of address information,” he adds.
Aruldoss recommends that other procedures be performed every 90 to 180 days. However, some organizations choose to perform all of the processes each time a mailing is prepared.
A Sunny Outlook
Primary Color, with multiple locations in the U.S., is a visual solutions company that offers turnkey services across pre-media, print, and Web-based technologies. Based out of the Orange County, CA office, Jerry Dailey, direct mail/data production manager, Primary Color, discusses a recent mailing done for Bentley Motors using Melissa Data as an NCOALink provider.
The variable data insert for an envelope mailing was printed on a Hewlett-Packard Indigo 10000 Digital Press with personalization fields populated with the recipient’s first name, Bentley dealer email address, and phone number closest to the recipient address.
“We NCOALink all of our mail files. It is important to update addresses for my clients because they would like to keep their client databases up to date, and every customer is important to our clients. We NCOALink every mail file, per job, unless specified not to,” explains Dailey.
With the help of Melissa Data, Primary Color keeps its clients informed about their customers, remains in line with USPS standards, and improves response rates for clients.
Keep it Real
Data hygiene processes—mandated or not—provide marketing and print service providers with an efficient, cost-effective method of cleaning data. If not used regularly, the outcome provides less than stellar results.
“Nobody wants to receive mail addressed to someone else, or mail that doesn’t provide anything of personal interest. The most well-crafted, personalized message will not deliver results unless delivered to the right person at the right time—and may even backfire. Imagine the pain of receiving vacation offers or life insurance sent to a decease spouse,” says Jessica Formosa, director of marketing, Satori Software.
Print providers should be well versed in data quality processes and offer them as part of their overall print strategy. When used properly, data hygiene solutions offer fast turnaround and a higher ROI. dps
Jul2014, DPS Magazine