During the past 12 years I moved four times in Southern California, from Mission Viejo to Lake Forest to Long Beach to Laguna Niguel. My career also has taken me to new locales, from Santa Ana to Dana Point to Laguna Niguel and finally to Rancho Santa Margarita. Like millions of other Americans, I don’t stay in one place for too long. So if you’re a marketer trying to keep track of my whereabouts, best of luck! The U.S. Postal Service says 43 million of us pick up and move every year. The average American moves 11 times in his lifetime. Many of us will take a few minutes to file a change-of-address notice to get our mail forwarded. The USPS feeds this “mover” data into the National Change of Address Linkage (NCOA Link) database, which is licensed to vendors for list cleansing services. With 152 million permanent address records dating back four years, the NCOA Link database is an impressive resource for mailers. But NCOA Link does have a limitation: It tracks only movers who voluntarily submit their new address data. What about the movers (especially students) who don’t file a change-of-address notice with the USPS? How do we find them?
Multisource change-of address data, better known as MCOA, picks up where NCOA Link leaves off. MCOA databases contain updated addresses of residents who have moved in the past 60 months and may not have contacted the USPS. The privately owned MCOA files consist of 121 million or more records from sources including magazine subscriptions, catalogers, insurance companies, and credit bureaus.
MCOA data are typically provided by one of the three big data compilers—Equifax, Donnelley, or Experian. The service often goes by other names depending on which bureau is offering the data. There are hundreds of resellers of MCOA.
Your house file deteriorates at an estimated rate of 17% a year because of moves associated with businesses, families, and individuals. To reduce that rate, you should use NCOA Link and MCOA at least twice a year. The money you save on postage and production alone will certainly cover the costs of list hygiene services.
Once you’ve identified and updated the movers in your list, for just a few more dollars you can tap into two additional data scrubbing services to further improve the accuracy of your addresses. LACS (Locatable Address Conversion System) converts rural route addresses to city-style formats, as per emergency response requirements. DSF2 (Delivery Sequence File, Second Generation) validates addresses to the actual point of delivery, including apartment and suite numbers, rather than within a range for the given street. It also returns address attributes such as residential, business, vacant, or seasonal.
When you combine NCOA Link and MCOA with LACS and DSF2 you get a premium package that ensures the strongest protection against undeliverable mail. Your records will be validated, standardized, zip+4-coded, and ready to go. After all, when it comes to tracking down people on the move like me, you’ll need all the help you can muster.
Jack Schember is marketing manager of Melissa Data Corp., a Rancho Santa Margarita, CA-based list and data services company.