Improving Email Deliverability for In-Store Sign Ups
Recently, a popular anti-spam blacklist named Spamhaus began to blacklist marketers who are sending marketing emails to email addresses that are incorrect (those including a typo error). If you’re collecting addresses in-store at the point of sale this is a must-read post. Let’s take a look at this issue, how it impacts senders and what you can do to remedy the issue.
In-Store Sign Up
Some retailers are now offering an option to email receipts to customers when they check out at the point-of-sale. If the customer gives permission to receive an e-receipt, the sales clerk will ask the customer for their email address and enter it into the system to send the e-receipt email. While typically this is a great process, there is potential for trouble. If the sales clerk types in a wrong address, the e-receipt is sent to an incorrect email address. Spamhaus says this one-off email e-receipt isn't really a problem, but the issue is that the incorrect email address (which in some cases happens to be an inbox monitored by Spamhaus) starts to receive marketing emails. Such was the case recently with a huge retail store where Spamhaus flagged them for this exact situation. Common input errors are when an address is entered with a domain name that is incorrect, but seems closely related to a legitimate domain, ex: AOLL.com or Hoymail.com. This situation also applies to retailers who are collecting email addresses for marketing newsletters, coupons, etc at the point-of-sale. Spamhaus says it’s okay to collect email addresses for both the purpose of marketing emails and e-receipts, BUT these addresses need to be verified via a confirmed opt-in collection method. For e-receipts addresses, send only the e-receipt. It’s crucial that you don’t send anything in addition to an e-receipt if that’s all the customer has given you permission for.
If you want to send marketing messages to this address, you will need to collect clear permissions by asking the recipient to confirm via the email that they indeed want to be added to marketing messages. In your e-receipt, add in a clear way to opt in to future marketing messages, this gives customers a way to indicate their future interest. Since they have just purchased they have a high likelihood of subscribing and now is your time to ask them.
At the end of the day, you want to confirm that there is a human (as the recipient) indicating interest. Spam trap addresses will never complete an action. In the event that you’re sending to a spam trap address – you won’t see any activity within the email and the relationship stops there. If you pursue an opt out method, you will continue to send to a spam trap address along with sending to users who don’t want to receive your messages – and who will ultimately mark your message as spam. The longer you send to spam trap addresses, the longer Spamhaus will mark you as an offender.
If you find yourself listed on Spamhaus' blacklist for this 'typotrap' scenario, there are 4 options to avoid this problem.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Unfortunately it’s all too easy to sabotage your email deliverability, earlier I wrote on the ways that email marketers may not even realize that they could be hurting their deliverability in Don’t Sabotage Your Email Deliverability. While it’s easy to keep your in-store sign up on auto-pilot, make sure you evaluate the tips above to help insure your email deliverability.
Being listed on Spamhaus can affect a large percentage of your list, ranging from 20%-50%. Let this blog post be the way to start some very serious discussions and implement these tips as soon as possible. These are the recommendations we continue to stress not only to stay off blacklists but to keep you in the inbox. One can argue that all this carnage is only for a few emails sent to wrong addresses, but the good news is this can all be controlled and fixed by the marketer. This issue isn’t going away anytime soon, just check out coverage of the news on The Magill Report, Network World and on Spamhaus' site.
Have you found other ways to protect your email deliverability from the new changes at Spamhaus? If so, please share below – let’s work together to help the email marketing community improve our practices so we can all see great deliverability.
Director of Deliverability at Bronto
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About the Author
Chris Kolbenschlag, Bronto's Director of Deliverability, maintains Bronto’s high standards for deliverability in addition to providing leadership to clients on industry trends, relevant best practices, and related technologies. With more than fifteen years of experience, Chris brings a wealth of knowledge in ISP relations, CAN-SPAM compliancy, email deliverability best practices, and reputation monitoring to the Client Services team. He is actively involved in several industry groups, including EEC (Email Experience Council), MAAWG (Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group), and ESPC (Email Sender and Provider Coalition).