Service providers work to fill voids in ZIP data

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With pressures from falling sales to rising postal rates forcing marketers to be more accurate with their direct mail programs, geographic data service providers are competing to offer the best ZIP code and carrier route data in ways mailers can easily apply to their campaigns. Two of these companies, MarketMaps and Maponics, have launched new ZIP code data suites this month to address marketers' targeting and compatibility needs.

"ZIP code and carrier route boundaries are very powerful [for mailers] in that they're marking where these campaigns take place and targeting specific areas," said Mark Friend, VP of sales and marketing at Maponics.

Maponics' new suite of ZIP and ZIP+4 data evolved after the company noticed a void in the marketplace, Friend added. The company also works with list brokers and managers, including InfoUSA, to add other non-address data to its offerings, such as neighborhood information.

"There's some data providers, more in the navigation space, that have historically focused more in this area, but are focusing elsewhere," he explained. "We see a real opportunity in the market for a company to step in and say, '[ZIP codes] are our core competency, this is what we do, we're focusing more and more on this.'"

MarketMaps also responded to concerns from mailers when developing its program — it heard ZIP data companies were getting elsewhere weren't accurate enough.

"People told us, 'We're getting the data from other suppliers, and they are not accurate," said Dan Olasin, president of MarketMaps. "You get tired of being beaten up for other people's mistakes."

Mailers benefit from the competitive spirit in the space by getting cleaner data that are updated often. Both service providers are also committed to delivering the data in ways many mailers can use.

"This data can be delivered to customers in a number of file format, or can be accessed by our application programming interface," Friend said, noting that "resource-constrained companies" that don't necessarily have staff to handle these needs "can make a call and get whatever data set they need at an appropriate time, and handle that on a transactional basis."

MarketMaps' Olasin also noted the compatibility of his company's offering with a number of street databases, and added that in developing its platform it was aware of the other challenges mailers face.

"We knew we could make these data more accurate, but we know are working with direct mailers who are guided by this CASS standard, so we're were determined to create our geographies compatible with that standard," he said. "We can't say they're CASS-certified, but they're CASS-certification compatible — we're using all of the same systems and databases that the CASS certification systems as part of our process. The result is a highly accurate geography."

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