by James Lawson, Contributing Editor
The UK population changes on a daily basis as people move house, move job and pass away – so it makes perfect sense for databases to be updated on a regular basis, but with more files and more sources than ever before, companies must focus on education to increase business.
Jon Cano-Lopez | Chief Executive, REaD Group
Mark Carrington | Chief Technologist, Data8
Martin Doyle | CEO, DQ Global
Mike Fox | Director, UKChanges
David Murray | Sales and Marketing Director, The Software Bureau
Reduced waste, tighter targeting and increased ROI: the case for using suppression is watertight. New and updated suppression data continues to appear with extra unique records, offering marketers ever-wider coverage of UK goneaway and deceased individuals.
For Mike Fox, Director at UKChanges, any new file that enhances his company’s view of the UK population is desirable. “We have encouraged two data owners to build new files as it’s clear they have data available that would work well for suppression,” he says.
Data8 similarly welcomes new arrivals that use different feeds to traditional sources like the Electoral Roll or credit data. “The total volume has increased considerably over the past year and we often see goneaways that are only found on the new files,” says Mark Carrington, the company’s Chief Technologist. “Clients that remove their goneaways regularly got an initial boost.”
Data8 has recently introduced its own goneaway file, with 35 million records based on analysis of historical electoral roll data. “We’ve made every effort to keep any false goneaways in this new file to a minimum,” says Carrington. “We’re now able to start offering goneaway suppression as an annually licensed service rather than just on a per-hit basis.”
Carrington also hints that his company may enter the business suppression market where there is currently only one live product: The REaD Group’s Business suppression file. “The B2B industry is missing out on the suppression services that B2C businesses have been used to receiving for years,” he says. “This is something we’re looking at addressing as we continue to develop our Business Universe offering.”
The DBS Purifi file is the first of two other recent goneaway arrivals, compiled from the company’s LifeBase consumer file combined with house sale data from Land Registry. Linking back to the latest data on LifeBase allows the company to find new addresses for those moving house.
The file holds 2.7 million individuals by name but offers move dates for 9.3 million addresses. With up to 180,000 new records added every month, DBS claims Purifi offers “over a million goneaway records that do not appear on any other suppression file”.
Information Works released a goneaway file based on a similar Land Registry build process last year. The company cleans estate agents’ lists – plus files from other data partners – against Land Registry data and, as part of the deal, adds the goneaways it identifies to its own suppression file. However the lag between a move and subsequent Land Registry verification can mean that these files don’t give prompt notification of a goneaway.
Marketing Source’s Clarity goneaway file is the other recent arrival. This first launched last year but is now being re-released to the market after some extra tweaking. Clarity covers 35 million individual moves going back over 18 years and, like Purifi, is a byproduct of the compilation of a consumer universe.
In this case, it’s Marketing Source’s 50-million-strong MS Reach list. Working with over a billion source records, the agency can multi-verify each goneaway it adds to Clarity. But what was really new about Clarity was the fact it broke new ground by allowing list owners to remove goneaways from their house file at source and then rent cleansed extracts to all and sundry with no further processing fee. And, instead of a yearly licence payment and a hit charge, it offered a single flat rate annual database volume-based fee.
End users could append permanent flags to their data and produce whatever number of output extracts they desired. With an upper limit on annual hit charges, this flat rate approach extends to bureaux.
“We’re seeing more new data owners offer annual fixed price deals irrespective of volume,” says Fox. “That will encourage service providers to put the file high in the hierarchy and hit it hard. If clients use the file a lot, they can make a lot of money.”
With bureaux charging clients per hit, taking on this kind of deal is a gamble but once income from hit charges matches the annual flat fee, every hit after that is pure profit. If the service is generic and the client isn’t interested in checking which files are used, then so much the better.
But with any file in this competitive market, the decision on whether to use it or not should be based on more than cost. In other words, just how accurate are they?
“We are still seeing more new files coming out with claims for numbers of unique records,” says Jon Cano-Lopez, Chief Executive at REaD Group. “But unique records aren’t necessarily good. Where have they found all these new records from?”
There are certainly some worries over quality and testing is the only way to set minds at rest.
“Before we adopt a suppression file, we will test it on recent mailing responder data to check it is robust,” says David Murray, Sales and Marketing Director at The Software Bureau. “I would advise any suppression data user to do the same. It needn’t cost anything initially as you can start by using free data audits.”
Data8 takes a similar approach, matching against a house file of current names and addresses built from trusted sources. “If a new file identifies a goneaway from that list, we know there is a potential issue that needs investigating,” says Carrington.
Many users prefer to rely on big brand names, sticking to tried and tested files year after year. But do they still offer the best combination of value and accuracy? Again testing is the answer, with the likes of UKChanges constantly running client projects in an attempt to find the optimum mix.
One trend is slightly worrying. UKChanges and others note more clients now require matches to multiple files before they will confirm a suppression in their customer data.
“Clients want to see flags from three or four sources before they will trust the result,” says Fox. “This will increase cost and reduce the volume of matches available.”
But it’s an expensive way to go about it and, where one source may feed multiple files on the market, far from a watertight argument. For example, Mortascreen takes Experian’s Mortality Suppression file as an input. It looks like clients are duplicating what reference data owners should have already done for them.
“The desire for multi-file confirmation seems to take the focus away from offering lots of uniques within a single file,” says Fox. “Shouldn’t the data owner be doing that multisource checking rather than the bureau?”
The obvious answer would be, rather than choosing from 11 separate goneaway files, to merge some products to create a handful of options. With more sources matched at the build stage, each one could offer far greater accuracy and coverage. “Clients would only need to check three or four to get broad coverage of the whole suppression universe,” says Fox. But that’s unlikely unless there are some mergers or takeovers in the pipeline.
Cano-Lopez’s vision of suppression is very much along these lines though: building the clearest possible picture of the consumer universe. That means offering new addresses for movers and seeking other linkages between old and new phone numbers or emails. “It’s about knowing the UK population, not just building a list,” he says.
As well as goneaway and deceased suppression data, TRG’s Qinetic file offers forwarding addresses for the previous occupant and, unusually, the new occupier at goneaway addresses. Geodems codes for both former and current occupier help marketers assess their potential while date of birth helps improve matching accuracy. As suppression evolves for the digital age, these extra attributes and channel contacts are what the market wants. “We are collecting device IDs and social linkages, that’s what we are building for the future,” says Cano-Lopez. “Because we know when they change, we can use all this data most effectively to build the richest possible view.”
The Software Bureau is certainly a fan, recently replacing GAS with Qinetic in its Cygnus ES module, and Data8 added the file to its roster this year.
“We’re offering Qinetic because it holds all the GAS data plus the new addresses too,” says Murray. “You also have all that other data right there to support your matching decision and there is a lower hit charge too.”
By packing the most popular reference files into its ES module Cygnus offers instant per-click access to hundreds of millions of suppression records to its users. Companies like Data8 and DQ Global take a different approach, using web services to link remotely hosted files directly to an in-house database. DQ Global’s appRules utility within its DQ Studio suite lets users define automated cleansing workflows and connect to over 80 data sources like Mortascreen or GAS.
“We call the data providers through their web services and they are doing the matching,” says Martin Doyle, CEO at DQ Global. “Effectively we’re standing in the middle and brokering the reference data to the client. Most work on a hierarchy of cost and typically start with the cheapest file.”
DQ will go direct to a data owner where they provide a web service option, otherwise they will connect to an online bureau service. It’s as close as we currently get to suppression as a service. “The technology exists to make this a simple automated process,” says Carrington. “If you’re handling large Excel spreadsheets to get the job done, there is an easier way!”
Educating the market is certainly still a priority, with around 30% of marketers still not employing suppression at all. However the old perception of suppression as a cost is hard to shift – especially for a newcomer with a neglected house file. Cleaning segments based on which customers are most valuable or in advance of each campaign helps spreads the expense, but paying extra for permanent flags is vital.
“They don’t need to clean the whole database every time, they can just clean up the 5,000 records needed for a campaign,” says Doyle. “But though we advise clients to update the records on the source database every time, only a proportion of them do that.”
To be able to educate clients, service providers’ service, sales and marketing staff must fully understand the various suppression options and the matching process too. The Software Bureau now aims to train everyone involved, not just the direct software users. This educational effort has helped the data processing side of client Pepper Communications’ business grow rapidly over the last few years.
“Their clients save the cost of the printing, packing and mailing which means far better ROI for them,” he says. “And because the margin on suppression is actually better than it is on print, I think Pepper make more money by not printing than printing these days.”
Avoid waste, increase overall ROI, avoid brand damage: what’s not to like? But sadly many still don’t perceive it that way.
“It’s like going to the dentist and finding out you need a filling, or putting your car into the garage for its MOT and being told it needs lots of other expensive work done,” Fox says. “There’s still some way to go to convince people that cleansing is an investment rather than a cost.”