Database marketing is a form of direct marketing using databases of customers or potential customers to generate personalized communications in order to promote a product or service for marketing purposes. The method of communication can be any addressable medium, as in direct marketing.
The distinction between direct and database marketing stems primarily from the attention paid to the analysis of data. Database marketing emphasizes the use of statistical techniques to develop models of customer behavior, which are then used to select customers for communications. As a consequence, database marketers also tend to be heavy users of data warehouses, because having a greater amount of data about customers increases the likelihood that a more accurate model can be built.
There are two main types of marketing databases, 1) Consumer databases, and 2) business databases. Consumer databases are primarily geared towards companies that sell to consumers, often abbreviated as [business-to-consumer] (B2C) or BtoC. Business marketing databases are often much more advanced in the information that they can provide. This is mainly because business databases aren't restricted by the same privacy laws as consumer databases.
The "database" is usually name, address, and transaction history details from internal sales or delivery systems, or a bought-in compiled "list" from another organization, which has captured that information from its customers. Typical sources of compiled lists are charity donation forms, application forms for any free product or contest, product warranty cards, subscription forms, and credit application forms.
The communications generated by database marketing may be described as junk mail or spam, if it is unwanted by the addressee. Direct and database marketing organizations, on the other hand, argue that a targeted letter or e-mail to a customer, who wants to be contacted about offerings that may interest the customer, benefits both the customer and the marketer.
Some countries and some organizations insist that individuals are able to prevent entry to or delete their name and address details from database marketing lists.
Database marketing emerged in the 1980s as a new, improved form of direct marketing. During the period traditional "list broking" was under pressure to modernise, because it was offline and tape-based, and because lists tended to hold limited data. At the same time, with new technologies enabling customer responses to be recorded, direct response marketing was in the ascendancy, with the aim of opening up a two-way communication, or dialogue, with customers.