Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome Shirley Zhao of Experian Data Quality, one of Mi9 Retail’s valued partners, to our articles page to share some expert insights about POS.

Most retailers are extremely concerned with the collection of accurate and complete emails—and rightly so. Think about what they use them for. For large retailers, email communications are not only used to notify customers of their wide selection of products and frequent discounts, but to also urge their customers to keep them in mind as opposed to other established competitors. For smaller retailers and specialty boutiques, emails are essential in creating personal relationships and treating each customer as their best consumer through strong attention to service and experience.

But for all kinds of retailers, there’s no arguing that email is crucial to sustaining success. Today we’ll discuss where retailers are experiencing the most trouble with accurate and complete email collection, the main consequence as a result of this challenge, and the how’s and why’s behind real-time email verification solutions as the end-all be-all approach to solving the email data quality problem. Let’s talk, shall we?

Let’s talk: The POS challenge

There’s no escaping the point-of-sale challenge. Because point-of-sale typically involves some sort of manual data entry, it’s where accurate email collection suffers most for retailers. According to our customers, 15 to 40 percent of all emails collected through point of sale are invalid. For large retailers who want to build their email databases by hundreds of thousands of new emails per year, this invalid percentage can represent huge investment loss, and can be akin to throwing fistfuls of money at customers and seeing them use it as kindling.

Here are two calculations to help reveal the cost of bad emails:

If you were collecting 100,000 new emails throughout a month, and you generally saw that customers converted 5 percent of the time with an average of $150 per order, the potential revenue you’d earn would be (100,000 x .05 x 150) = $750,000.

Now if you were seeing that 20 percent of those net-new emails were invalid in some way, that’s (750,000 x .20) = $150,000 worth of potential revenue lost due to poor email data quality, and an extra $1.8 million in additional revenue per year that you’re not making.

Why are so many emails collected at POS invalid? According to our 2015 Data Quality Benchmark report, human error accounted for 61 percent of all data inaccuracies within companies. Despite the move towards increased automation, humans are, and will continue to be, necessary in data collection and data entry. Because of this reliance on the human element, mistakes are unavoidable—we are, after all, only human.

Aside from genuine mistakes resulting in poor data quality, there can also be instances of “willful” entry of bad data. Retailers, for example, will sometimes incentivize their employees to collect more emails during the checkout process to increase the size of their database. However, quality is often compromised in the process of increasing quantity, and if no verification checks are implemented to review email accuracy, then company resources and assets are at risk.

Another great example of how invalid emails enter the database—one that I confess to doing—is providing an email address to an account never checked just to get the discount during checkout. Other tactics include providing false emails altogether. While human error is unavoidable, safeguarding against bad email quality shouldn’t be.

Let’s talk: The deliverability consequence

When retailers raise a commotion over maintaining good email data quality, what they’re really talking about is email deliverability. Email deliverability is a way for marketers to assess the likelihood of their emails reaching recipients’ inboxes, and is affected by a whole host of factors: bounce rates, spam issues, grey- and black-listing and user complaints. These issues are linked together by the foundational element of an inaccurate email address.

In fact, 78 percent of companies worldwide experienced email deliverability problems in the past year—a large part of which can be attributed to poor email data quality. Even legitimate marketers using best practices can get flagged simply because they did not scrub their emails before using them. The biggest consequence of this was poor customer service, and as intangible as “poor customer service” sounds, its effects are pervasive and can be extremely damaging to retailers.

For instance, email isn’t simply used for marketing campaigns anymore. Nowadays, customers relinquish their emails to receive e-receipts, transactional updates, shipping and order confirmations or other notification-based, informational email communications. They expect certain communications, particularly welcome emails or shipping and order updates, within a certain timeframe.

When email quality is compromised, a retailer’s ability to send effective communication is affected. That then impacts customer perception of how much you care about them, which will influence whether or not they give your brand a glowing review to peers and can ultimately be the impetus for them becoming loyal, brand-advocating patrons or disparaging visitors.

Avoiding deliverability risks have scared some retailers into restricting the campaigns they send out in fear of being flagged as a spammer or getting blacklisted—both of which are valid reasons. This, however, shouldn’t deter retailers from limiting communications with their customer base. Let’s talk about why.

Let’s talk: The real-time solution

If you avoid sending out email communications simply to avoid being flagged, you might not be taking the right approach. (It’s the email equivalent of reneging on your diet and labeling a whole day as a cheat day just because you had a piece of cake at 1 PM. We’ve all been there.) In order to truly address this problem, retailers must attack it at the source, that is to say, they must verify the accuracy and completeness of emails as they are collecting them through real-time solutions.

Real-time email verification gives retailers back lost opportunity. Integration into point-of-sale allows employees to see whether or not the email provided is valid via an alert that prompts customers to make corrections to a mistyped address. Because emails are verified before they ever enter the database, there is no time lost in sending out new subscribers welcome emails or losing out on a chance to engage and connect, nor is the integrity of their email list database compromised.

Below, you can see an example of how real-time email verification runs on our website. As soon as I move onto the next field, a red error message pops up alerting me to my mistyped email address. This would work similarly on a retailer’s POS system.

Say it’s the holiday shopping season—which by the way folks, is creeping up scarily fast. Your customers and store associates are stressed, rushed and have lost track of how many transactions they’ve run through. Some associates may even be running on auto-pilot—which is a problem for accurate data entry. Real-time verification allows employees to immediately correct any typos, giving them the peace of mind to continue working as well as prevent any negative brand experiences. By the same token, it allows retailers to concentrate on order fulfillment, transaction updates and clean databases to work with for future marketing communications.

Retailers today are gathering emails from many channels; however, point-of-sale email collection can be the most troubling for them. Not only do inaccurate and incomplete email addresses decrease the quality of your database, they limit the amount of recipients you can reach with marketing campaigns and important transactional updates, as well as lower your deliverability rate. Some retailers have gone so far as to restrict the number of communications they send out to reduce these risks, but that doesn’t need to be the case.

Through real-time email verification implemented at point-of-sale, retailers can greatly reduce the number of invalids entering their database and concentrate on what makes their world go ‘round: their customers.

Want to continue the conversation with a data quality expert? Check out Experian Data Quality!