First Look: 2010 Email Address Validation Study

According to MultiChannel Merchant’s Outlook 2010 study, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that a company’s own website and email were the two most used promotional channels. Nearly two thirds (59.5%) of total participants said they planned to increase their email marketing expenditures this year. Almost as many (51.9%) placed “more sophisticated” email programs on their wish list, making it the number one channel where they would spend money if they had an opportunity to boost their marketing budget. Yet, even with the substantial budgets and efforts being spent on email marketing, internet retailers continue to lose millions of dollars by populating their email databases with bad data.

FreshAddress, Inc., a leading email database services provider, conducted a study of fifty top e-tailers’ ability to catch email registration errors on their websites. This study is the third in a series of examinations of the email address validation practices of leading internet retailers; previous studies were conducted in 2006 and 2008. The objective of the study was to measure the extent to which these highly-trafficked brands were able to catch and correct malicious and faulty email address registrations on their websites.

Highlights from the study, which examined 14 common invalid or bogus email address registrations include:

E-tailers still struggle with “Garbage In, Garbage Out” syndrome and customers are left guessing:

  • For each of the 50 websites, 50% or greater of the email addresses tested were accepted
  • No websites offered a correction to consumers for common hygiene (e.g. spelling, formatting, fat fingering) errors
  • None of the websites flagged common typos (ex: “yaho.com, redifmail.com), dead domains (ex: “attbi.com”), and bogus emails (ex:mailinator.com)
  • None of websites allowed an email with a double @-sign to pass through without an error message (improved from 12% in 2008)
  • 16% of websites allowed an email with a double period (.) to pass through without an error message (improved from 24% in 2008)
  • 90% of websites allowed an email with .cmo to pass through without an error message (even worse than the 86% measured in 2006)

“Best” performers still have work to do:

The strongest performing company in this study, L.L.Bean, blocked only half of the 14 invalid email addresses tested. The next strongest performers, blocking only 6 of the 14 invalid email addresses tested were Amway.com, Drugstore.com, Netflix.com, Overstock.com, Sears.com and Victoriassecret.com

Lost Revenues for E-tailers

Using a conservative estimate for the percentage of correctable email address registrations, a retailer that gains 500,000 email addresses per year is losing $200,000 in revenues. This calculation does not take into account the wasted marketing dollars spent emailing nonworking email addresses. Nor does it calculate the significantly larger costs of being blocked or blacklisted.

By not investing in effective, user-friendly options for improved email address validation, retailers are losing sales, wasting marketing dollars, alienating customers, and being blacklisted. Given today’s lackluster economy and competitive sales environment, retailers must take swift action to improve their email registration practices.

The full study is available in our Resource Library under White Papers.

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