How to Buy Lists Throughout Europe

The European list market is growing rapidly. Direct mail volumes have risen in all the main European commercial centers over the past five years and with it, the breadth and scale of lists has flourished, too.

Consumer lists: What’s out there? Europe has a vast range of lifestyle, compiled, response and subscription and e-mail lists, though few countries can match the United Kingdom when it comes to choice.

Public domain lists such as the Electoral Roll in the United Kingdom are available from all the main European countries (except for Germany), but as ever selectability can be very limited. Lifestyle lists continue to grow, and here the main players are Claritas, Consodata, CCI, Omnidata and Schober. Austria is the only commercial center without a lifestyle presence; however, changes in the legislation may create an opportunity for lifestyle companies.

As you might expect, e-mail lists are growing rapidly, and many compiled databases are emerging in every corner of Europe. Look out for Consomail and Claritas for large-scale socio-demographic data. There are also many pan-European Web sites that are selling their customer databases, such as the music site MP3.

However, while the scope of the European list market is expansive, it is far less sophisticated than the United Kingdom when it comes to the added value services that many list owners can provide like profiling and bespoke analysis.

Understand the marketplace. The standard rules of play that operate in the United Kingdom when it comes to issues like list management, commissions and net name arrangements do not necessarily apply across the rest of Europe. If you are not aware of these nuances, it can throw up some nasty shocks in terms of campaign planning.

In France and Germany, many lists are multimanaged or brokered, each offering varying costs of base price, selections and commissions, too. As a result, you may find yourself having to negotiate with several list owners simply to buy one list.

Likewise, commissions vary wildly. The standard commission structure in the United Kingdom of 10 percent to 20 percent holds no ground on the continent, and you may receive as little as 5 percent from some list owners in France, or as is sometimes the case in Italy, no commission at all.

While in the United Kingdom, net names are a common discount strategy, across the rest of Europe they are not widely accepted. In some cases, we have had to explain the very concept of net names. Similarly in Italy, duplicate names are often not discounted, but list owners simply oversupply to make up the original order volume.

One cost that does not exist in the United Kingdom, but is commonplace in many areas of Europe, is setup fee. In France and Italy in particular, list owners will levy a cost to cover setup, processing and dispatch in addition to a standard delivery charge. These are invariably negotiable, but unless you are aware of them upfront, it can wreak havoc on your campaign economics.

Following the rules. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Each country has a different interpretation of permissioning, and likewise there is little consistency when it comes to data export.

Opt-in is becoming a standard procedure for all third-party mailings, though in certain countries including France and Spain it is not yet a requirement. Likewise, e-mail list owners are nearly all adopting an opt-in stance in preparation for the proposed legislation later this year.

Look out for local restrictions of data processing. In Germany, Italy and Spain data export is restrictive, and it may require a commitment to abide by local data protection legislation. What’s more, in Germany in particular, data cannot be sent direct to the mailer, but must be dispatched to an approved data processor.

Choosing the right broker. It is relationships that count in this business, and ideally you want a broker that already deals with leading list owners across Europe so it can leverage maximum negotiation power on your behalf. Any broker serious about buying across Europe should attend the main direct marketing events in London, Dusseldorf and Paris at the very least. A small broker probably is not going to cut it, simply because it does not have the resources to let managers spend enough time abroad.

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