In part 3 of our series on Direct Marketing Terminology, we’re focusing on “Data Processing” related terms (see also Part 1Part 2 and Part 4).

When it comes to processing data for local, national or international companies, JR Direct is a leader in this field. Data processing is essential for every mail company looking to save money on printing, postage and list rental costs.

Check out our last blog “Staying connected with your customers” on how to make better use of your own data.


“Data Processing” Terminology

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) – A character encoding format for storing data containing English letters, numbers, and punctuation. ASCII is limited to 128 characters and cannot represent non-English characters. A second encoding format commonly called ‘Extended ASCII’ encompasses for 256 characters, which allows for accented characters used in Romance and Germanic languages (e.g., French, Italian, German). See also Unicode and UTF-8.

Delimited Layout (CSV,TXT) – A compact, variable length, record layout that uses a specific character (comma, tab, semi-colon, etc.) to separate data fields within each record, and a specific character/character pair (<CR><LF>) to denote the end of each record. Individual fields are often surrounded by quotes <“><”> to allow fields to contain the separator character without confusing the layout.

Data Entry – The process of keying printed/written customer information into a computer for later data processing. This process is often simplified by utilizing a customer ID and/or a Finder Code to retrieve existing customer data, requiring the operator to only enter new information.

De-Duping – The process of removing duplicates from within a file or between multiple files. The methods of identifying duplicates varies from system to system, though the more advanced systems (as we have at JR Direct) can match duplicates despite misspellings and missing/conflicting address elements.

File Layout – A representation that describes what data is contained in a file, and how that data is organized. A typical file layout shows both the encoding (ASCII,Unicode,UTF-8,etc.) and the layout (delimited,fixed).

Finder Code – A code (usually numeric) that can be used alone or in conjunction with a Source Code to uniquely identify a single customer/prospect record.

Fixed Layout – A file layout that uses set field lengths to determine where each data field exists in each record (each field starts and ends at the same location in each record). Fixed layouts may use end-of-record markers as used in Delimited Layout. Note: due to the multi-byte encoding of Unicode and UTF-8, fixed layouts are usually restricted to ASCII encoded files.

Header Record – A special record at the beginning of a data file that contains field identifiers instead of customer data. Header records are frequently used instead of File Layouts for Delimited Layout files.

List Fulfillment – The process of creating a List Rental file from a client’s customer file.

Match Key – A special data string used to identify duplicates. A match key contains a subset of the customer name and address, but is usually generated in such a way that the original record cannot be recreated from the match key. This allows for retaining the match keys for historical matching without violating data protection acts.

Merge/Purge – A software system that detects and drops duplicates within and between multiple acquisition files. Advanced systems can offer a wide variety of features, including: recency matching, multi matching, and advance matrix reporting.

Nth Output – A subset of the total available Merge/Purge output quantity. This subset created using a proportional selection across geographical regions to more accurately represent the List (as opposed to selecting just the first n records).

Post-Merge Split – The process of splitting the post-Merge/Purge output data for a single List into multiple files. This split allows for testing of new offers or for separating the data by geography for region-specific offers.

Reformat – The process of converting data files from one record layout to another. When associated with a Merge/Purge, the target record layout will be the client’s preferred layout. Often, address correction and validation (if applicable) is done during the Reformat process.

Service Bureau – A facility providing general or specific data processing services, such as Merge/Purge, Address Correction, and/or List Fulfillment.

Source Code (Keycode) – A numeric or alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies a List, used primarily for tracking responses back to the List Rental file from which the responding customer originated. This may also be used in conjunction with a Finder Code to simplify Data Entry.

Unicode – A character encoding format for storing data for any language, from Latin-based (English, French, German, etc.) to demographic (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.). Unicode is becoming the standard encoding format, but many legacy systems (especially North American based) are still limited to ASCII.

UTF-8 – A variation of Unicode that is backward compatible with ASCII (UTF-8 is identical to ASCII for English letters, numbers and punctuation). UTF-8 has become the defector standard for web pages, and is competing with Unicode for becoming the overall encoding standard.

To contact a JR Direct expert for all your data related needs, visit our Data Processing page. Be sure to sign up to our “Fresh Ideas” newsletter below to keep up-to-date on our blog and get the latest news and insights in the world of direct marketing.