The Database Industry Turns Toward the Web

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CHICAGO--Everyone on the exhibit floor at the National Center for Database Marketing Conference here late last month spent more time talking about the Internet than they did about anything else.


This year, database marketing vendors were using the terms "Web-based, multi-channel marketing" to describe what their partnerships with Web companies offer or what their new Web-based products offer. Most vendors offered solutions for true "click-and-mortar" integration, meaning companies can use tools to smoothly integrate Web stats, such as visitor navigation paths, click steams and other behavioral metrics with more traditional customer and transactional data from their data warehouses, ATMs and call centers.


To date, traditional merchants have largely split their online and offline operations into separate entities, creating a parallel relationship between channels -- one in which each channel neither contributes to nor detracts from the other. Now, companies are starting to strive for synergy.


And while some transactional data from the Web has indeed been incorporated into marketing data marts or data warehouses for some time, the breadth of data is much more wide and varied now.


Highlights from the show included:


* Harte Hanks Inc., San Antonio, TX, announced a strategic relationship with net.Genesis Corp., Cambridge, MA, an e-business intelligence solution provider. Here, net.Analysis, net.Genesis' flagship product that enables companies to analyze Web-site visitors' navigation paths and click streams, will be used in concert with Harte Hank's Allink Agent and some of its other database and data mining products.


* Prime Response Inc., Boston, announced Prime@vantage.com, a Web-based marketing automation suite that can analyze, plan, execute and track one-to-one marketing campaigns across multiple online and offline customer touchpoints. Prime Response also announced that priceline.com, the patented Internet pricing system, will deploy Prime@Vantage.com for all of its marketing needs both online and offline.


* LikeMinds Personalization Server, a collaborative filtering tool from Andromedia, an e-marketing software vendor, San Francisco, and the demographic profiles of more than 150 million consumers stored in The Consumer Data Warehouse from Webcraft Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ, were integrated into a solution designed to offer real-time integration of consumer profiles with offline data.


* Digital Archaeology Announced c-Discovery, a software solution for marketing departments that provides instant access to data across all customer touchpoints. Discovery links e-commerce and Web-site related data with customer information from brick-and-mortar sources, front-office and back-office applications and external data sources.


* Recognition Systems Inc., Chicago, introduced Protagona, a marketing automation system designed to help companies communicate personalized marketing messages to its customers through transactions such as e-mail, the Web and direct mail. It also announced that Macromedia Inc., the software maker, is using this system for its marketing purposes.


In addition, standing beside traditional NCDM vendors such as the U.S. Postal Service, Experian, and Group 1 Software were NCDM newcomers such as Cyber Dialogue, a Silicon Alley company that provides Internet database marketing solutions, and 24/7 Media Inc., New York, which provides Internet advertising and online direct marketing solutions to advertisers and Web publishers.


Analysts believe all of these vendors and exhibitors were on the right track. "Marketing-savvy organizations are beginning to embrace the Internet as the new medium to build customer loyalty. However, they realize the importance of integrating the Web with traditional channels to enhance marketing campaigns," said Sam Clark, senior analyst of Meta Group. "Solutions such as Prime Response's Prime@Vantage.com assist in addressing just such an opportunity."


"Forward thinking companies need to embrace a multichannel strategy that leverages both direct and indirect channels via the Web," said Steve Bonadio, senior analyst at Hurwitz Group. "Hurwitz Group believes that marketing automation applications can help brick-and-mortar companies bridge the dot-com gap, as these solutions are really beginning to deliver on the concept of multichannel, one-to-one marketing."


Incorporating the Web into NCDM was no accident, however. The theme of this year's conference was "Database Marketing at a Crossroads: Choose Your Direction," to signify that the industry is at a turning point right now, struggling with the issues that involve combining database technology with Internet technology, along with bringing a database online. Sessions included: "Linking Databases to the Web," "Permission-Based E-Mail Marketing," and "E-Commerce Best Practices."


"Clearly, there was an effort on the DMA's planning committee for the NCDM show to make this more of a Web-based show," said David Shepard of David Shepard Associates Inc., a DM database consulting company in Dix Hills, NY. "Database and Web-access to databases, along with providing seamless links as far as the customers are concerned, that's where it is all going."


However, he said that he sensed there was a heightened sense of anxiety on the show floor as well -- possibly because of all of the new tools that attendees had to sort through.


"I think there is a disconnect between sophistication of the tools on the exhibit floor and what is actually being used by the people visiting the conference, many of whom are new to the industry," said Shepard. "When you see things that are not quite clear to you, it makes you nervous. There is concern that [attendees] may be further behind than they even thought they were, and they wonder if they can ever catch up."
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