Mailers rely heavily on the US Postal Service’s NCOALink dataset – nearly 160 million permanent change-of-address records including individuals, families, and businesses that have updated their information by filing a change-of-address with the USPS. But according to Census Bureau data, more than 43 million Americans move every year – but far fewer file a change-of-address update. As much as 40% of all address changes are not reported to the Postal Service; last year just 36 million address changes were reported.

Millennials are not only three times more likely to move, they also represent a disproportionate number of those who don’t file address changes. It’s just in their nature as digital natives to consider filing such corrections less important to their day-to-day activities. Yet USPS data shows that this demographic values physical mail, pointing to digital fatigue and acknowledging that receiving personal mail makes them feel special. This valuable target group is worth the effort for direct marketers.

To minimize undeliverable as addressed (UAA) direct mail, marketers are well-advised to run NCOA in tandem with multisource change-of-address (mCOA) and proprietary change-of-address (pCOA) as standard operating practice. This method saves time, production costs, and postage associated with UAA – for just pennies per record.

Digging Deeper for Correct Address Data

Tapping into an mCOA database can provide marketers with as much as five years of address change data. These proprietary options contain millions of records from sources such as magazine subscriptions, catalog houses, insurance companies, credit bureaus, mail-order retail management systems (RMS), and others.

A pCOA database goes back 360 months – that’s 30 years – to identify movers in your customer list. The file consists of data collected from multiple private sources including banks, credit card companies, magazine publishers, plus additional proprietary data such as a historical database. For example, an optimized pCOA tool pulls Move Update data from external sources, benefiting from, for example, the high accuracy of clean, validated, standardized address data generated from e-commerce platforms. Reviewable FTP site data has proven to reveal 40-50% more moves than NCOA processing alone. For data managers tasked with supporting smarter mailing campaigns, it’s important to note that NCOA, mCOA, and pCOA work together. It’s not either/or, and smart data tools fill in the blanks with the strongest data culled from multiple sources.

Private and Proprietary Tools Supplement NCOA Processing

NCOALink is so effective as a Move Update process because it is the only method that identifies UAA before a mailing. By helping mailers reduce UAA as well as the costs of wasted printing, packaging, and postage, it is green from end-to-end. Even so, NCOA processing misses 50-60% of the people that move every year, largely weighted to the millennial sector of the population based on their resistance to filing updates with the USPS. While it’s true that millennials may want to avoid or limit bulk mail, they certainly want to receive their Amazon shipments. Data processed against both NCOA records and pCOA and mCOA tools results in a greater number of records that are correct, updated, and enhanced.

Finding and Connecting with Customers

Marketers are starting to acknowledge that millennials face a different reality in terms of putting down roots. Where an older generation was focused on getting married, finding a long-term job, and buying a home, today’s twenty-something has much less of a stake in the same kind of ‘traditional’ path. Is your target working from home or are they still at the office? Have they moved out of the city and into a different or more rural area, or perhaps a family home? And most importantly, have they made these changes without formal notification to the USPS?

Campaign marketers must keep pace with this shift from the traditional, especially when it comes to address data management. Proven, standard tools and services such as NCOA processing will always apply, but they are best complemented with proprietary options to complete the picture. Clean, accurate mailing lists are a key factor in ensuring strong campaign results, enabling direct marketers to tap into psychographics, demographics, socioeconomic data, and real insight that helps them reach valuable customers and prospects. From a basic cost perspective, accurate address data also reduces postal costs, helping mailers qualify for postal discounts and eliminating the waste of undeliverable mail.

Bad addresses are costing businesses millions. For a mailer and their mail house, this is just bad business – starting with potential liability for financial penalties, along with poor customer communications, limited marketing effectiveness, lagging account receivables, and fewer sales.

One of the four Move Update approved processes, NCOALink, is critical in solving these challenges. It is the only USPS-certified method that identifies moves pre-mailing to save a mailer money. But even utilizing NCOALink isn't enough. Because undeliverable mail means wasted resources and lost opportunities, mailers must look to proprietary change of address services to complement these efforts. By understanding their options and prioritizing their focus on address quality, they can cut costs, save time, and reach and engage with the otherwise elusive millennial.

Greg Brown is vice president of Melissa (, a provider of global data quality and address management solutions. Melissa is an NCOALink Full Service Provider licensee of the USPS and its MAILERS+4 postal automation software is USPS PAVE Gold certified to presort mail to qualify for postal discounts on First Class, Marketing Mail (Standard Mail) and Periodicals. Connect with Greg at or LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.