Integration of Data Is Key, CheetahMail Exec Says

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PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Seeley, CEO of Experian's CheetahMail e-mail services unit, was about to drive home to New York, satisfied that eTail 2005 confirmed his theories of where e-commerce and online marketing were heading.

Besides innumerable meetings, a dinner hosted by CheetahMail at Philadelphia's famed Capital Grill restaurant the night before for clients and prospects was extra validation.

"My sense is that as the market is maturing, people are now getting a sense of the cycles," Seeley said. "So it starts to fall in line. Now on the client's side you can understand your staffing needs and you're better prepared. From a vendor's side, we've got a better handle on anticipated needs and staffing requirements."

How has e-mail marketing evolved in this era of customized marketing?

"What we're seeing is a slow trend toward the increased use of personalization and data," Seeley said. "The other thing is we're seeing a heavier increase of utilizing every touch point. You need to start understanding what consumers are doing on your Web site, what they're doing offline and … using that information to make your messaging strategy more effective."

Seeley and his colleagues met with several clients and prospects this week. One concern stood out from the inquiries he fielded.

"The most desirable fact or the biggest concern is that data needs to be integrated," he said. "Marketers need to understand customers across channels. You need to understand your customers' behavior on- and offline."

A difference between eTail and other online shows was that it wasn't hijacked by search engine marketing. Does this mean that retailers now understand that search is but one of many, albeit wildly successful, ways to reach consumers and gain their business?

"Search is hot," Seeley said. "Search has also become the big opportunity to acquire customers on the Internet. From the e-mail perspective, it's found its place as a retention tool. So I think from a search perspective, it's always appealing to increase your customer base, and e-mail's how you're going to keep them."

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