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Dealing with those Pesky Point-of-Sale Addresses

1/22/13

By Ken Magill

Talk about a potential point of failure: 78 percent of retailers collect email addresses at point of sale using their sales clerks, according to a recent study by Experian Marketing Services.

Relying on sales clerks to get customer email addresses is a surefire recipe for getting dirty data. They’re often young, always think they’re underpaid and have most likely never heard the words “list hygiene.”

And not surprisingly, the collection of dirty data at point of sale is exactly what has happened.

In December, this newsletter reported that anti-spam blacklisting outfit Spamhaus had begun blacklisting major retailers—among them Gap and Gilt—for email sent to addresses with typographical errors.

The typos were believed to be the result of addresses incorrectly entered into the retailers’ databases at point of sale as part of their e-receipts programs—paperless systems that allow customers to have receipts delivered to their inboxes.

Point of sale is an obvious place to collect email addresses. It simply has to be done properly.

Chris Kolbenschlag, director of deliverability at Bronto, offered some solid tips for avoiding problems with point-of-sale-collected addresses recently on the email service provider’s blog.

While I don’t agree with point No. 4, the overall post offers solid advice:

1. Invest in an email address validation solution that would identify a bad address immediately when the sales clerk is entering the email address. These systems can only validate the domain, which is a good start since domain typos are the large majority of the problem.

2. Create a double entry solution where the sales clerk would need to enter the email address twice to reduce any risk of misinterpretations. While this may take a little bit more time at the register, it’s a win-win. You’re helping to guarantee that the customer gets their e-receipt as promised (think of the bad customer experience if they never receive their receipt, would they be willing to shop again if they never received an e-receipt during their earlier visit?) and you are helping to guarantee the fate of your deliverability.

3. Convince the customer to provide a legitimate email address. Offering an immediate discount at the point-of-sale by providing an email address allows customers to simply make up an email address to take advantage of the discount. You can lose since you give the discount and have no email address to show for the trade.

4. Take time to validate email addresses - Simply send out an email asking the recipient to validate their address and/or permission to accept future marketing messages. If they don’t confirm opt-in, you’ll need to remove them from your marketing list. By asking for verbal permission in addition to explicit consent from the consumer, you’re helping to guarantee that your messages won’t be marked as spam in the future and that you won’t be flagged by Spamhaus. This method can be very controversial since it traditionally creates low opt in rates but I would argue it’s actually more beneficial for several reasons. Confirmed opt in emails keep lists free of trap addresses, they allow you to remove potentially incorrect email addresses and irrelevant users (who don’t want your emails) from your list, allows you to verify correct clean permission and addresses, and keeps you off of blacklists and out of trouble.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Bill Kaplan
Date: 2013-01-24 11:18:29
Subject: Dealing with those Pesky Point-of-Sale Addresses OR How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Database

While I question the 78% figure cited by Experian regarding the number of retailers collecting email addresses at point of sale using their sales clerks, POS email acquisition is being embraced by many sophisticated retailers and its saturation and power are clearly growing. However, “with great power comes great responsibility” – whether this phrase should be properly attributed to Voltaire or Peter Parker of Spiderman, the point remains: dealing with those Pesky Point-of-Sale Addresses is absolutely critical to ensuring you can leverage the benefits of this email registration channel without incurring the wrath of the spam filter gods. The keys to success lie in utilizing a real-time email hygiene, correction, and validation service that can: 1) Block possible spamtrap and other undesirable but deliverable email addresses from ever getting into your marketing database 2) Flag and correct the millions of inadvertent hygiene registration errors (i.e. syntax, typo, formatting, misspelling, top level domain inconsistencies) to ensure you’re reaching the right person 3) Validate the deliverability of every email address that makes it through the above screens, including the hygiene corrections Even granting that double opt-in is the gold standard for email registrations, an email hygiene, correction, and validation service is still invaluable in optimizing one’s double opt-ins.

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