Poor Data Quality Creating Challenges for Email Message Delivery
Email is still a top communication channel for retailers looking to stay in touch with customers and prospects. In fact, 98 percent of retailers collect email addresses through a variety of channels, with the most popular being their websites and point-of-sale locations. Retailers use these email addresses to send a high volume of messages to consumers for operational and marketing purposes in an effort to drive additional revenue.
However, many retailers aren't capturing accurate emails or managing their email database effectively. Correctly captured email addresses ensure quicker online account creation, faster checkout and increased effectiveness of email marketing campaigns. These factors are critical when interacting with today's consumers, and help retailers to improve overall customer satisfaction.
Yet many retailers struggle to deliver messages because of poor data quality. According to a recent Experian Data Quality study, 67 percent of retailers have experienced email deliverability issues within the last 12 months. This has led to an inability to communicate with subscribers, poor customer service and damages to sender reputation.
A majority of email deliverability issues result from poor sender reputation. Internet service providers (ISPs) all calculate sender reputation differently, which is why addressing all the underlying factors is so important.
On average, U.S. organizations believe a quarter of their database contains inaccurate data. An email database riddled with inactive or invalid email addresses can lead to spam trap hits, high bounce rates, email complaints and blacklisting. All of these can have a dramatic effect on a domain's sender reputation.
While 88 percent of organizations manage their email database in some way, many don't implement basic techniques that can have a dramatic impact on complaints and bounce rate. Only 47 percent of respondents follow CAN-SPAM requirements for unsubscribe and only 44 percent remove hard bounces from their email list.
In addition, many don't employ confirmed opt-in or double opt-in methods for data collection. These methods are very valuable as they ensure only subscribers who provide accurate data and want to be sent marketing messages receive communications.
In order to start improving email database maintenance, retailers should employ four basic email hygiene techniques:
1. Acquire email addresses intelligently. It's very important to consider how email addresses are acquired before sending to individuals. Be sure your organization is using permission-based acquisition practices and is validating emails at the time of acquisition. Email validation ensures that all email addresses are valid and deliverable, which could explain why 66 percent of retailers are currently using some form of email validation.
2. Manage your email database. Marketers need to be certain that they manage the various types of subscribers within their database. These include inactive subscribers, opt-out requests and active nonresponders. Each email group requires different maintenance best practices, which vary based on your email marketing strategy and goals. However, proper management leads to better deliverability through improved sender reputation.
3. Manage bounce rates. Anytime a hard bounce occurs because the email address doesn't exist, the address should be removed from your email database. This will prevent the same bad email address from continually damaging your sender reputation.
4. Validate inactive emails prior to mailing. If you're not mailing to a segment of your database more than once a month, those addresses are also considered inactive and should be cleansed before mailing. Two percent of data goes bad each month, according to Return Path. Retailers should look to validate email addresses and remove any invalid addresses prior to mailing in order to ensure a lower bounce rate. Improving email deliverability starts with building a proper data quality strategy and validating email addresses. Retailers are continuing to make progress, but there's still more that can be done to improve email deliverability, and therefore customer service.
Thomas Schutz is the senior vice president, general manager of Experian Data Quality, a provider of contact data-quality software and services.