Does the Shoe Fit? How to Select Demographic Data to Enhance Yo
by Christine A. Smiley
Imagine as you walk by your favorite department store that you impulsively purchase this season's trendiest shoes and wear them home. But you soon realize that shoes are very uncomfortable, and they quickly find a permanent home in the spare closet. You wish you had spent more time going to different stores to compare prices, styles and overall fit. Fortunately, an investment in a pair of worthless shoes may go unnoticed. But companies looking to make a substantial investment in demographic data want to be sure that the purchase will add value to their marketing decisions over time.
Even with the wealth of data that companies often have about their customers, they sometimes want more. Purchase records tell a lot about how a customer interacts with a company, but they may give little insight into who a customer is. Many vendors, including Experian, Polk, Acxiom, infoUSA and KnowledgeBase Marketing, offer demographic overlays. These companies compile or buy data from a variety of sources such as phone books and government agencies. A customer list can be enhanced with individual and household demographics such as age, presence of children and income. It is important to shop around and find the data that will best match and enhance your customer file.
There are different ways to work with a data provider. If demographics will be used for occasional profiling, you may send the vendor small sample files. The vendor will append information and produce a profile report without returning the overlay data. On the other hand, if demographics will be used extensively and you have the capability to manipulate data in-house, you may want to enhance your entire file. In this case, the overlay data would be permanently appended to your file, giving you control over when and how to use the information.