Database Cooperatives: The Basics and More for Direct Mail

As more new players enter into direct mail, they often have questions about how to find new potential customers. Typically, we recommend using a database cooperative for prospecting amongst other services. But what is a database cooperative and how can they help a brand discover new opportunities? Lett Direct’s Jenny Mullen discussed these questions and more with Casey Waterhouse, Account Manager at Epsilon.

JM: Hi Casey.  So let’s start by explaining, exactly what is a database co-op?

CW: In a database co-op, multiple brands contribute their first-party data assets into an aggregated environment. The data is then fed into proprietary models and analyzed to help businesses enrich their own customer information and reach new customers in both traditional and online channels.

It’s important to note that in a co-op, brands are not disclosing their customer’s transactional information with other contributor organizations. The data that a brand adds helps every partner in the co-op, including themselves, to develop better models, but their specific information is never shared.

JM: Great! What are the benefits of participating in a co-op?

CW: The insights gained from joining a co-op help participants to find new audiences who are more likely to respond to your offers. You have the opportunity to learn more about your customers and build deeper relationships with them. You can reactivate lapsed customers, retain existing customers all while growing new customers. Co-op members have the ability to optimize their mailings to maximize their ROI and boost their ROI and justify marketing spend.

JM: How would you explain the benefits of prospecting to a new mailer? At Lett Direct, we have always emphasized the importance of growing your housefile.

CW: Prospects are a vital source to the long-term success of any business that aspires for growth and stability. Prospecting allows mailers to continuously grow their customer housefile while identifying and reaching their highest potential prospects.  By working with industry leading co-ops, mailers of all offers and circulation sizes can cut back on mailing costs by identifying the best potential prospects who are most likely to become their next customer(s). This gives you the ability to:

  • Grow your customer base with your highest potential prospects
  • Convert customers from your competition and grow your wallet share
  • Cut through the noise and make your messaging stand out
  • Tailor your campaign to a highly qualified universe based on select criteria
  • Simplify the mailing process with a more efficient approach
  • Reach your best audience across ALL channels
  • Build and sustain customer loyalty
  • Gain more customer insights so that you can sell more

JM: What’s in store for the future print and/or digital when it comes to data management?

CW: The future is on our doorstep. There have been massive advancements in machine learning technology over recent years that allow co-ops like Epsilon / Abacus to remove human bias, and what “we think” may be best, by continuously optimizing model solutions. This, in turn, allows us to unlock the true potential of transactional data and produce better marketing results. This advancement also can increase our prospecting efficiencies that help our clients save money on rising mailing costs.


Casey Waterhouse is part of the Epsilon / Abacus team and can be reached at [email protected]. Abacus is the nation’s largest cooperative database, with over 3,000 contributing brands representing 100 million U.S. households and 9.8 billion transactions.