A Study in Data Hygiene

What is it, and why is it important?

I’ve written quite a few articles in which I make the assertion that your player database is your most valuable asset, and that it is imperative to keep it clean and up to date at all times. This will save direct mail print and production costs, as well as postage. But I’ve had quite a few people ask me for a more detailed explanation of how those savings occur with comprehensive and regular data hygiene. First, let me explain the basics of postage calculation, and then I will outline the basics of data hygiene and share a case study.

Simplistically, postage is based on how many mail pieces are delivered within given zip codes.

The first three numbers of a zip code are called the SCF. This designates the postal Sectional Center Facility that sorts the mail. If there are at least 125 pieces going to any one SCF, those pieces get a discount. Next, if there are at least 125 pieces going to any one 5-digit zip code, those pieces get an additional discount. Zip codes break down into carrier routes. The higher the percentage of pieces delivered within any one carrier route, the more discounts are applied.

The highest discount is Walk Sequence. This is where you actually sort the mail in the order the carrier drives down the street and delivers to each address within a carrier route. The best way to get your data eligible for as many discounts as possible is to get the addresses in your data to match the addresses and delivery information in the Master Postal Database. Once you have done that, you then need to verify the players named actually live at those addresses with a Resident Verification.

The first step in getting your addresses to match those within the USPS database is to run a CASS certification.

CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System. This process compares your addresses against the Master USPS data and codes records that match and don’t match. CASS will also find vacant addresses and delivery sequence information. Next, run an update against the DSF2 file, which adds additional validation information to identify address types and ensure deliverability.

Next, you want to make sure that you have the correct address for the correct individuals in your database.

Most of you are familiar with NCOA or National Change of Address. Individuals tell the Post Office when they move and provide their new address. That information is held by the Post Office for a rolling 48 months. NCOA compares your name and address data against the move update data at the Post Office and provided updated information where found.

What about those individuals who don’t tell the post office that they are moving? Or who moved more than 48 months ago? For these records, there is PCOA, or Private Change of Address. This process taps the Lexus Nexus data repository, which contains over 35 years of personal and consumer data. Follow up this process with a resident verification process to confirm all your findings. An annual update with PCOA and quarterly NCOA updates will then keep the occupant information in your data very accurate.

There are additional data processes to suppress deceased individuals, prison addresses and bankruptcy flags, as well as to append missing apartment or unit numbers.

Email addresses and phone numbers may also be validated and/or appended at higher rates and with better accuracy with clean occupant and address data.

Now for the case study:

A client database of 302,614 records with activity in the last three years was analyzed. Here are the highlights of what was found:

Process: Records Found: % of Database

NCOA-Good Moves (new addresses): 8,748: 2.89%
NCOA-Bad Moves (no new address): 1,958: 0.65%
PCOA-New Address: 75,682: 25.01% (Wow!)
PCOA-Bad Address: 23,636: 10.21% (Wow!)
DSF2-Vacant (no one lives there): 8,802: 2.91%
CASS-Address errors (not deliverable): 22,611: 7.47%
Deceased: 6,441: 2.13% (Wow!)

Tami Jones 7 Articles