Presenters Talk Data at Simmons Information Summit

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NEW YORK -- Collection and use of customer data were key elements of the Future of Information Summit held yesterday by Simmons Market Research Bureau, which provides research through its national survey of consumers and marketing solutions.

"Understanding your customer has never been easier or more challenging," Bill Engel, chairman/CEO of Simmons Market Research Bureau, New York, said in his opening remarks.

With all the data sources available to businesses, it is challenging to create a unified customer profile, he said. The key is integrating disparate data, he added.

The topic of data integration was taken up by speaker and America Online vice president of market research Howard Shimmel in a presentation called "Customer Data Integration: Is Nirvana Achievable?"

When AOL was a single-brand company offering one service, customer data integration was not such a big deal, Shimmel said. But that changed as the company launched new services. With 27 million customers, the concept of mass segmentation of the database was much less attractive than one-to-one marketing, he said.

"Consumers are revolting against us," he said, explaining that they are taking back control of what marketing messages they will tolerate.

Therefore, it is more important than ever to send the right message to the right target at the right time. Customer data integration plays a large role in achieving this, Shimmel said.

The key challenges of customer data integration are combining internal data with external data and creating segments as well as database scoring with accuracy, he said. Though the process differs for each business, he said, companies with transactional data have a good starting point.

Use of customer data was the focus of a presentation by Peppers & Rogers Group principal Michael Lengel. He identified four tasks for managing customer relationships and boosting response:

· Identifying customers across all channels of your business.

· Differentiating customers in terms of profitability, lifetime value and needs.

· Interacting with customers more efficiently across touch points.

· Customizing your communication based on the customer.

The daylong conference was held at the Marriott East Side and attended by Simmons' clients including ad agencies and marketers. Other companies presenting included MasterCard International, Nickelodeon and Microsoft.

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