It’s July 30, 1999, and 102 degrees in Chicago. Walking out of the Hyatt on Michigan Avenue there was one question on my mind, "Can I get a taxi with air conditioning?" This year’s summer National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM) conference was based in the Windy City. After finding a cab I asked myself a second question: "What is the current state of database marketing and where is it headed?"

From a business standpoint, it seems to be pretty obvious where organizations are going. From Fortune 500 companies to the CD store down the street, firms want to have a complete understanding of each customer’s preferences and his/her value to the business. This information is critical in developing effective loyalty programs. Organizations want to allow customers to interact with them on the customers’ terms, and they want to deliver the same level of service and recognition at each channel. Every business wants to lock in the customer and make the cost of switching to a competitor too high.

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