International Housefile Housekeeping (889 words)
Clean your international data files to maximize opportunity
By Charles Bouton
Ensuring data quality in foreign address data is a complex process. International postal regulations and requirements differ greatly. Most countries have their own addressing standards, and few postal administrations have commercially available postal databases, even fewer with complete data. In addition, some countries such as Belgium and Switzerland use more than one language and more than one address format.
The tremendous growth of direct marketing is turning a growing number of companies into worldwide businesses. Companies that have a presence on the Web are, in effect, global businesses and can expect inquiries and orders from around the world. Consider the following statistics, which illustrate the worldwide growth of e-business:
• Research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) estimates worldwide e-commerce revenue will exceed $3.1 trillion in 2004, with the United States accounting for only 38 percent of this figure.
• IDC also predicts that e-commerce sales in Europe will soar from last year's $5.6 billion to $430 billion by 2003.
• In Asia, online sales are expected to surpass $72 billion by 2003, compared with $2.7 billion generated last year.
Consequently, direct marketers, especially those with a Web presence, must be able to take steps to ensure that goods and services can be accurately delivered to customers across the globe.
The problem with data
It is common knowledge in the direct marketing industry that global campaigns often enjoy a higher response rate than those carried out domestically. In fact, while the average response rate to U.S. direct marketing campaigns is in the neighborhood of 2 percent, response rates for overseas campaigns often range from 6 percent to 7 percent. Many U.S. businesses, however, have been reticent to mail campaigns outside North America. The primary obstacle for these businesses is dealing with foreign addresses, which they see as being problematic--even though foreign addresses are no more problematic than U.S. addresses.