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Who is the “Current Resident”, anyway?

Our CEO received an extremely heavy, expensive-looking catalog in the mail the other day, from an upmarket retailer and addressed to a previous occupant of his house “Or Current Resident”. When you receive catalogs in the mail that are addressed to the previous homeowner or the “current resident”, do you read them or toss them? Obviously the company hopes that anyone who receives a catalog at this address will more than likely take a gander at what’s being offered.
But is this a cost-effective supposition? When you consider the resources wasted on shipping a catalog to anyone that lives at a particular address, you have to wonder whether this is a smart strategy or just a cop out from cleansing a database.

Using address verification software which includes the National Change of Address (NOCA) service would help catalog senders increase their return on investment by updating their databases as frequently as needed. The NCOA service would ensure that databases are updated with the customer’s current address information, or warn of deceased or moved customers who did not give a forwarding address.

NCOA relies on the customers filling out a Change of Address form, and the USPS internal databases which keep track of customer information, which it then relays to the NCOA service. Rather than make use of NCOA data, many companies add “Or Current Resident” to the name from their databases, as the most timely and least expensive method of allowing that the addressee may no longer be there.

Set against the convenience of this tactic, these factors should also be considered:

  • The expense of shipping items to an old address
  • The much reduced chance of the new resident making a purchase
  • Losing track of a past customer
  • Alienating the new mail recipient

But does the NCOA process take that much time, or add to the expense of the mailing? Well, the answer is “no” on both counts! A whole spectrum of NCOA options is available, from desktop software that can be used by marketers, and software integrated into the corporate database (both contacting an NCOA service under the hood) to online bureaus who take your data and return the updated file a few hours later. The cost depends on data volumes, but even if you only have a few thousand records in your mailing file, you can always find an option that saves you money compared with print and mail costs – especially if your catalog is bulky.

Sending catalogs to the “current resident” might sound like easy advertising, but it doesn’t deliver return on investment for the costs of printing and mailing and it doesn’t help your brand. It really is easy and much smarter to keep track of customers with NCOA services, stop shipments to non-existent customers and even save money to reinvest in other positive, more effective marketing efforts.