A dilemma has been reached in database marketing and its root cause is a lack of visualization. We're not talking about a lack of vision or creative inspiration, but the inability to capitalize on visually displayed trends emerging from the overwhelming flow of customer information--the result of increased competition, mass customization, lifetime value analysis, contact history development and new, electronic ways of doing business. In marketing circles, the importance of relationship marketing is undeniable. Studies show that the average cost of acquiring a new customer is five to 10 times greater than the cost of retaining a current customer. And those customers who stay long-term with your organization contribute substantially to its profitability. In fact, according to Frederick Reichheld in The Loyalty Effect, a five percent improvement in a company's customer attrition rate can push that company's profits up 75 percent.

With the increased storage power of data warehouses, traditional methods of data analysis have not been able to keep up. In the past, spreadsheets, charts and graphs allowed us to see smaller amounts of data in two-dimensional, linear displays. However, data warehouses and marketing databases require multivariate displays and the ability to explore tens of thousands of data items at a time. Data visualization uses graphical elements such as color, shape, size, spatial layout and geometry to represent complex information in highly intuitive ways. With this metaphorical representation, users can easily see patterns and trends in large amounts of data. The more powerful visualization systems are interactive, allowing users to gain a big picture of their data before filtering out uninteresting information and drilling down to important details.

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