Acxiom in Strategic Alliance with Bertelsmann

LONDON/GUETERSLOH, Germany — Acxiom and AZ Bertelsmann Direct formed a strategic alliance last month to introduce Acxiom’s data integration tool, AbiliTec, to major European clients.

Acxiom, based in Little Rock, AK, is active in the United Kingdom, while AZ Direct has a database with 35 million names in Germany alone, does extensive work in Austria and Switzerland and has a presence in Spain.

AbiliTec, introduced in the United States last year, helps clients create a “total customer view” across multiple business lines to afford them a comprehensive focus on the customer and how to manage him.

“Companies intent on optimizing their CRM capabilities will find that AbiliTec helps enterprises unify their customer files; understand their customers in real time; and augment and correct their internal data with external data,” a company statement said.

For Acxiom, the alliance gives it an entry into the German market and the rich data Bertelsmann has available. AZ, in turn, gets a better shot at the U.K., where it is represented but does not have the technology.

“What AbiliTec offers our clients is a real-time, dynamic view of their customers across products, services and locations,” said Dieter Schefer, managing director of AZ Bertelsmann Direct.

“It’s an ideal situation because it allows us to enter new markets and to complement each other’s offerings. We have a lot of data, and AbiliTec will let us focus on it in real time without a central data warehouse. We’d have to make major investments to do it by ourselves.

“On the other hand, Acxiom doesn’t have the access to European markets and data that we have, and they don’t know the issues that bedevil direct marketing in Europe, beginning with data protection. And they’d need a lot of time to catch up.

“Together we’re in a situation to service large clients in these geographic locations by providing the information they need. They have a lot of separate databases which they can’t connect.

“Multinationals always have a problem evaluating customers, and many of them have failed building the kind of datawarehouses they would need. But Acxiom’s links through AbiliTec makes that unnecessary. We provide the data, and Acxiom the technical platform,” Schefer said.

“We’re going to build this into a pan-European operation,” said David Allen, European Leader for Acxiom. “I see a very strong complementary nature to our relationship by geography and by a common point of view.

“This is more than just positioning. We’re actively working on some significant initiatives and taking off from the clients we have in common. Both of us have a list of blue chip companies who want greater geographic coverage.

“But this alliance also has to be an attractive proposition for other blue chips with whom we don’t do business,” Allen explained. Both men agreed that they are looking for a handful of companies, not hundreds.

“We’re focusing on landing three to five major new clients over the next couple of years with whom we can conclude long-term contracts,” Schaefer said.

Allen said Acxiom hopes to roll out AbiliTec in the United Kingdom later this year and move into other geographies later, starting with Germany in 2001.

Since Land’s End was one of AbiliTec’s first clients in the United States, “They should be delighted to have us working together with Bertelsmann in Germany.” Land’s End has a growing catalog and Web business in that country.

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