When is NCOA Not Enough?
By Jack Schember
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 took me to new locales, from Santa Ana to Dana Point and Rancho Santa Margarita. You guessed it: I'm like millions of Americans who 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. 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 (NCOA) database, which is licensed to vendors for list cleansing services. With 152 million permanent address records dating back four years, the NCOA database is an impressive resource for mailers.
But NCOA does have a limitation. It tracks only movers who voluntarily submit their new address data. What about the movers who don't file a change-of-address notice with the USPS? How do we find them?
Multi-source change-of-address, better known as MCOA, picks up where NCOA leaves off. This database contains updated addresses of residents who have moved in the last 60 months and may not have contacted the USPS. The privately owned MCOA file consists of 121 million records from sources including magazine subscriptions, catalog houses, insurance companies, credit bureaus, mail-order firms and others.
Your housefile deteriorates at an estimated rate of 15 percent per year because of moves associated with businesses, families and individuals. You can put a stop to this decay by matching your list against the two largest known repositories of movers—NCOA and MCOA.
Any company that relies on the quality of its database should use these move-update services no less than twice a year. Not only is move updating a requirement for First Class automation discounts, you'll save money on postage, printing, inventory and time. The money you save on postage and production alone will certainly cover the costs of list hygiene services.
Once the movers in your list have been identified and updated, for just a few more dollars per thousand you can tap into two additional 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.
Thus, when you combine NCOA, MCOA, LACS and DSF2, you get a premium package that ensures the strongest protection against undeliverable mail. 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 media relations manager for Melissa Data, a data quality software and services provider. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.