All aboard the Clean-Data Train!

Article by Ken Magill CATEGORIES: Deliverability, Trends & Analysis TAGS:

Email Marketers Getting on Board the Clean-Data Train

By Ken Magill

A significant percentage of email marketing managers have apparently embraced the importance of making sure email addresses are clean when they enter their systems and are taking the proper steps to ensure data quality over quantity.

This is a significant shift from years ago when many email marketers were focused primarily on list growth and cut corners, such as playing fast and loose with their permission practices, to achieve their goals.

Seventy one percent of marketers in a survey conducted recently on behalf of eDataSource by email consultancy The Relevancy Group said they validate that email addresses are accurate and real at the time of opt in.

What is more, 50 percent f those surveyed said they use so-called double or fully verified opt-in for email acquisition. Fully verified opt-in is the permission practice where new subscribers must respond to a confirmation message in order to be added to the marketer’s email list.

A marketer trying to send email to too many non-existent or bad addresses is one of the primary metrics email inbox providers use to determine whether a sender is a spammer and its messages should be treated as such.

While not bulletproof, email address-validation services and fully verified opt-in are two tactics that can significantly lower the risk of bad addresses getting into a marketer’s file at the point of address collection.

Widespread adoption of the two tactics is significant for a number of reasons. For example, early in email marketing’s adoption as a commercial channel, marketers—many of whom had traditional, offline direct-marketing roots and focused primarily on list growth—balked at the idea of adopting fully verified opt-in.

The tactic often has a high drop-off rate because a significant percentage of new subscribers can fail to respond to the verification email for any number of reasons. In the early 2000s, many marketers viewed fully verified opt-in as akin to needlessly asking for permission twice.

While there is no question fully verified opt-in slows list growth compared to other permission practices, half of the marketers in The Relevancy Group’s survey have apparently determined its benefits outweigh its flaws. A significant number probably adopted the practice grudgingly, but they have apparently come to understand, or even experienced, the deliverability troubles that can ensue with aggressive, sloppy address-acquisition practices.

“We’ve seen more moderate expectations for list growth,” said David Daniels, CEO of The Relevancy Group. “We ask this question every year: ‘What are your list-growth goals?’ In 2016 it was 10 percent and this year it was marginally different [at] 11 percent. People are smarter because they’ve suffered the consequences” of focusing on list growth at the expense of address quality.

“There is a correlation between good behavior and deliverability,” Daniels said.

Just as significant is the high percentage of marketers using email-validation services. That close to three quarters of the industry uses them means the vast majority of email marketers understand how much damage bad addresses entering into their systems can do to their email programs.

Other reasons for the high-adoption rate of validation services is their vastly increased presence in the industry and marketers’ increased sophistication, according to Daniels.

“There’s so much competition out there that a lot of these solutions have become more affordable and marketers are more sophisticated,” he said. “They’re not afraid of integrating APIs [application program interfaces].”

The email deliverability community is full of horror stories of management tying email managers and retail associates to unrealistic email-address acquisition goals, managers and associates doing whatever they can to meet those goals—hint: It’s not focusing on quality—and their actions resulting in dirty, undeliverable lists.

The Relevancy Group’s study is a sign that the permission-based email marketing industry may finally have turned a corner on that front.