BACKGROUND: Acxiom Database Marketing Services (DbMS) is a subsidiary of Acxiom Corporation, the largest provider of data, data integration and warehousing solutions. DbMS provides strategic planning, implementation, research and analysis, utilizing customer information for marketing application. DbMS works primarily with retail financial services companies to leverage customer information and assist in the acquisition, retention and expansion of quality customer relationships.

PLATFORMS: DataFuse from DataMentors, Inc. runs on Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Today, relationship matching, or householding, is especially important for targeted marketing and customer retention programs to be successful and effective. Acxiom DbMS' challenge was to accurately match customer account records to the individual level and then match individuals together into a household record that could be used for CRM, modeling, direct marketing campaigns, etc. Many of our clients are financial institutions that have notoriously bad data in their source systems. In order to do a good job for our clients, we needed a system that could handle data issues such as extraneous words in the name and address lines (e.g., trustee for), misspellings and missing apartment numbers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Client files are loaded into DataFuse for name and address cleansing and standardization. Matching rules are created for each client in order to obtain the best possible matching accuracy, incorporating specific client nuances when needed. DataFuse analyzes each word in the name and address lines, matches the words against a series of tables to correctly identify the country, standardizes the name and address, adds geocode information and flags the record as an individual or business. After the name and address lines are parsed and standardized, the matching process begins. We use Acxiom's AbiliTec individual linking technology as one of the match fields. The combination of the AbiliTec and DataFuse products provides us with greater matching accuracy. We complete the process with deciling or centiling which divides the customer file into 10 or 100 groups based on the client's parameters, such as profitability or total sales. The output files are then loaded into the data warehouse.

STRENGTHS: The software is fully parameter and table driven, so the matching rules can be edited without programming and there are no boundaries to the matching process. We can assign an unlimited number of match keys in order to explore the data with multiple views in multiple ways. These features provide maximum flexibility that allows us to customize the matching process to each client's requirements. To prevent over-matching and under-matching, DataFuse also provides a "reason code" of why records were matched, so we can easily analyze and adjust the match rules as needed. The extensive word recognition programs in DataFuse also increase the accuracy. The phonetic algorithms are great, and thresholds are adjustable for us to control. Business matching, which is always more difficult, is especially good.

WEAKNESSES: The system is currently run from a batch file, but an easy-to-use GUI front end is due to be delivered in August.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We tested DataFuse against two other cleansing and matching products, and DataFuse was almost six percent more accurate in both instances. More importantly, we have worked with the people at DataMentors for many years, and their reputation for offering superior products and quality customer service added to our decision.

DELIVERABLES: During each phase of the process, DataFuse produces statistical and exception reports. A CASS certification report is also provided for postal discounts. At the end of the process, five output files are created at the account, individual and household levels. Those files are loaded into our data warehouse and used for programs such as CRM and campaign management.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The people at DataMentors have so much experience in the data cleansing and matching industry that they are the undeniable experts in this area. DataMentors is also easy to work with as a company, and that means a lot to us. The support during the sales and implementation process has been excellent.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is preliminary, but the final version is due mid-summer 2000. The excellent support that we receive makes this a non-issue.

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