What an email may say about your potential customers
Today’s marketer knows that the keys to increased conversion and awareness is understanding your target audience and creating a relevant and personalized experience for your customers and potential customers.
The use of real-time data is becoming more and more commonplace as marketers strive to customize their message for potential buyers. Consequently, accurate and attributable data has become that much more important. Recent studies have shown that email is the popular choice of communication among consumers with the most spending power.
Service Objects DOTS Email Insight can link an email address to compelling demographic and geographic information. By using just the email address marketers can now append information such as age, gender, income, location, education-level, home market value and more.
With DOTS Email Insight companies can analyze their email addresses to understand who is purchasing their product or service. With the data they can determine types of consumers who are buying their products and refine their strategies according to marketplace demands. They can also estimate a potential customer’s location and income-level to create a clear and comprehensive picture of them. With this service marketers can better understand their prospects; and tailor a unique message just for them. Finally, marketers can identify concentrations of potential customers to find untapped opportunities for growth.
Here is how it works: We aggregate email data across multiple sources and make it available through our application programming interface (API). DOTS Email Insight is a database of over 310 million email addresses linked to ZIP+4, Census data, compiled household files and other private sources of consumer information.
DOTS Email Insight is based on the principle that “birds of a feather flock together.” It’s a phenomenon that people with similar cultural backgrounds, needs, and perspectives naturally gravitate toward one another. They choose to live in areas offering affordable advantages and compatible lifestyles. That’s why, for instance, many young career singles choose lively urban neighborhoods, and while young families with children prefer the suburbs.
Here is a typical example: Service Objects recently appended demographics and location data to 100,000 email addresses for small California retail chain. The email addresses were culled from the stores’ internal email marketing list. The goal of the project was get more insight into the type of person who shops at their stores; including their gender, age, ZIP code, and household income.
Here’s what we found:
Let us give you more insight on your email data. For starters, send us a list of 500 addresses and we’ll send you back the results for free. Click here to register and submit your list.
October 24, 2012
Our development team has been working hard on some new design references in an effort to make our contact validation services easier to integrate. Many services can be strengthened with Service Objects products for address validation, email validation, NCOA service, phone number validation and much more. Our design references are intended to make the integration process easier for web developers and to remove the guess work of what additional downloads and preparations may be needed for success.
Our NEW additions to our design reference library are:
Visit the above links to learn more and to download the Design References for your project.
You can use a FREE Trial Key for any of our products to test them out on your system.
Our goal is to help you prevent fraud and mistakes before, and even after, they enter your system.
August 13, 2012
Because of the prevalence of multi-channel marketing, email append has become a widely used method for companies to build their in-house email database with permission-based addresses. It’s one of the most useful tools to get up and running. But it’s a service that is mired in controversy. And rightfully so.
The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email messages, gives recipients the right to put a stop to any incoming emails that are unasked for or undesired. This law insists that companies sending email make it easy for recipients to clearly understand how to opt out of receiving future emails.
Some in the industry say that appending is simply not an acceptable email marketing practice. That it is not permission-based and is not compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations. What is important to understand is that to use appended email address properly you must ensure that every recipient has, in fact, given their permission to receive emails and retains the right to opt out at any time.
DOTS Email AppendSM is great example of a modern email appending tool and an excellent way to build on an existing contact list. For example, a retail catalog company may decide to use email marketing, a method that is relatively inexpensive compared to direct mail. They already have their customers’ postal addresses and DOTS Email Append uses that list to append email addresses to their existing address data. It is now this company’s responsibility to send newly identified email recipients its own message, asking if they have permission to continue to communicate via email. Our DOTS Email Append requires all customers to take this or similar actions, thereby complying with CAN-SPAM.
Even with an extensive list of customer names and addresses, the catalog company in our example had no way to mine those for email marketing. With DOTS Email Append, they are able to do just that. Now after creating a permission-based email list, they can move forward and use this email list to help increase the effectiveness of all marketing and communications programs.
The bottom line? Used with CAN-SPAM compliance, email append is a great tool to give companies additional opportunity to skyrocket revenue and keep in closer touch with prospects and customers.
March 27, 2012
Many companies talk about up-time and service level agreements that look great on paper but don’t perform up to customer expectations in a crisis. A good backup process, covering application software, is necessary and should be standard, but it’s not enough.
You need an architecture that provides failover from a primary server, to a back-up server. It should pick-up and provides the same service, with minimal interruption in the flow of data to your application. This is more complicated, and valuable, than a mere backup of the application or even load balancing. Proper failover can minimize the interruption of access to your contact validation services. For mission critical and business critical applications this involves automatic failover to a fully separate alternate location. This dual datacenter level of failover protects against single datacenter failure of servers, LAN and WAN network access failure and physical location failure modes such as fire, power, or natural disruptions.
When considering real-time contact validation services for a business application, where continuous uptime is critical, here are some things you should look out for:
- Live backup servers that perfectly mirror the live primary servers, they should be identical both in count and content
- Multiple datacenters, one hosting primary servers and the other backup servers, located in different locations of the country, if a disaster takes out one data center, or the network access, it should not affect the other
- 99.95% uptime, with assurances that both datacenters have never gone down at the same time
- With the application and content exactly the same in both production servers, doing a failover should be as simple as changing the URL from one server to the next. For example, you would code your application to automatically failover from the URL of the primary server to the URL of the back-up server based on a condition such as response timeout
- In the event of massive datacenter failure, your contact validation provider should redirect traffic to the backup server at the backup datacenter
- XML code should contain failover suggestions and any support team should be able to help their clients implement failovers
Having a data response failure in your live application, that utilizes contact validation, can mean unexpected losses as your customers usage of that applications disrupted. If a company is accustomed to having validated contacts imported into their CRM system or used in some application from their website, a loss of service, even temporary, can lead to corrupted or non-corrected data. Failure of your contact validation processes can cause sales people to waste effort following bogus leads or packages to be delivered to bad addresses, all of which could be avoided if the contact validation provider offers a business critical level of service as noted above.
January 24, 2012
Contributed by Geoff Grow
19% of email addresses provided in free offers are bogus.
Service Objects has a corporate client that gave us approximately 120,000 email addresses from various campaigns and on various dates in 2011. Each address was processed through our email validation service. Each address was checked for syntax, domain-level validity and mailbox-level validity; additional checks for vulgar and bogus addresses were also performed.
At first glance the addresses looked OK. They were properly formatted and their domains (right side of the address) mostly belonged to the top e-mail providers like gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and others. However using email validation tools, we determined that 18.7% (22,700 out of 120,000) had mailbox level errors. These email addresses are undeliverable because the mailbox element (the left-side of the address) is no longer a valid working mailbox.
An example of one of these addresses is: email@example.com. The address has good syntax, a working MX record, a valid SMTP server but the mailbox element (cgommer) is invalid according to cox.net. Perhaps this entrant made up this address? Perhaps she moved ISPs? There is really no way for us to know with 100% accuracy. This was a bad address and should have been marked in their database as so.
Why valid email addresses matter: Marketers who look to re-connect with clients need valid working addresses. Email service providers like Constant Contact and MailChimp have rules in which they seek a maximum allowed bounce-back rate of only 5%*. If your bounce-rate is too high (>5%) you will be banned from mailing with their service. They do this to weed-out poor quality lists and to reduce load on their mail servers.
What you do about it: Marketers seeking to improve their email address quality should take the following actions:
(2) use a hosted email validation tool
(like those we offer at www.serviceobjects.com)
(3) send a confirmation email to verify users identity
(4) should periodically re-validate the list prior to any bulk mail campaign
- Email Validation
December 15, 2011
Contact Validation Made Fast And Easy: Most of us have become accustomed to instant gratification and fast accurate results. This is a high standard that Service Objects is constantly on the cutting edge of for contact validation. Our real-time services are second to none, yet we do have customers that want and need even faster service in some instances where they need to run small batches. In response to our customers’ requests we have developed a product called the DataTumblerTM, a desktop application that can run contact validation batches, up to 5,000 records, while accessing Service Objects’ database of 3 billion contact records in real-time.
EASY AND VERSATILE DATA CORRECTION: When it comes to using the DataTumbler it couldn’t be easier. No programming, no bothering IT or the Web manager, just run on any PC. Customers can use the same Trial Key or existing Production Key for their desired web service in the DataTumbler or our XML and batch products. The DataTumbler is free to download from our website and installs itself at the click of a mouse. Once data has been entered or imported into the DataTumbler, and a batch has been initiated, there will be a prompt to enter the key to run the batch. Want high security, use the SSL encryption feature. Within a short time all the data will be validated and ranked with easy to understand outputs, with the same quality as our real-time XML product outputs. The results can be exported into a CSV file.
DataTumbler Desktop Validation Output
SUGGESTED USES: The DataTumbler is perfect to run sample batches to test data, establish metrics expected for new input formats, do address geocoding, verify email, post tradeshow lead validation, clean-up a CRM , or refresh old data for sales call lists to name a few.
November 17, 2011
New Enhancement Will Improve Your Contact Data Accuracy for Reverse Phone Lookup and Lead Enhancement and Scoring.
Traditional consumer data sources such as Directory Assistance are offered by typical industry vendors to lead aggregators, retailers and company’s dependent on contact information, as a way to improve match rates and viability of collected contact information. This way of improving contact data is becoming less and less of a viable solution by the day. These Directory Assistance dependent sources suffer from weak, incomplete and missing contact data (see examples below). The problem continues to worsen due to the ongoing shift in land line vs mobile phone usage, long update time-frames for carrier client data, and limitations on use of carrier client data.
What can you do?
Service Objects offers a number of web service based products that utilize numerous public and proprietary data sources containing over 400 million phone records, and utilize a proprietary scheme of cascading logic to resolve caller identification data as a way to maximize match rates and contact data accuracy.
We now take the next step in helping you improve your contact data.
Service Objects has improved the accuracy of DOTS GeoPhone, DOTS GeoPhone Plus, DOTS Lead Enhancement Plus and DOTS Lead Validation web services with the addition of important new name and address data. These services are now utilizing a proprietary database of verified consumer records with enhanced and alternate name and address information. This new database contains 103 million contact records.
This new database allows Service Objects DOTS Web Services to enhance phone lookups by accurately overlaying missing elements such as name and critical address fields such as apartment, suite, floor, and unit numbers, onto partial contact records.
This important addition of data greatly improves the completeness and accuracy of contact data information. See the example below.
Example: Improved Accuracy and Completeness
Without the enhanced data providing expanded and verified name information and the addition of the actual apartment number this contact data is confusing at best and probably useless for the purposes of lead creation, retail shipments, postal contact or any application that needs name and contact data integrity.
These DOTS Web Services enhancements are now an integral part of the products as of May 2011 and available for you to enhance your contact data.
July 13, 2011
Beware—Sending Emails to Wireless Devices Has Its Pitfalls
More and more people are using cell phones with SMS features these days. In fact, text messaging is becoming the number one means of electronic communication in the United States. This may seem like a ripe opportunity to reach out to people via their hand-held devices and put your products or services at their fingertips, but for businesses, it may not be the right thing to do.
Although the concept of emailing your campaigns to mobile phones is alluring, unless your contacts have specifically asked to receive messages this way, you may be putting your company at risk of getting blacklisted, fined, or perhaps worse, alienating customers and prospective customers.
For one thing, it’s the recipients that get billed for your messages; they may find this not only annoying, but costly, escalating annoyance and provoking them to contact their mobile phone service providers to complain. If you systematically send out unsolicited emails via SMS gateways, and mobile phone companies receive enough complaints, you may be prohibited from accessing their networks in the future.
For another thing, the FCC has strict guidelines within its CAN-SPAM Act1 , mandating that all emails, whether bound for email inboxes or wireless devices, must have a feature that allows recipients to easily opt out of future mailings. While Smart phones recognize live links, other phone types don’t, putting your company in violation of a federal law and potentially exposing you to up to $16,000 in fines for each violation.
Don’t fool yourself: If you think that everyone would gladly pay to hear about your latest and greatest, the coolest and the newest thing, think again. One major Mobile phone company learned this the hard way, when in 2005, UCAN2 brought a case against it for spamming its customers and then charging $.10 for each message.
You can prevent violating CAN-SPAM regulations, avoid potential penalties from consumer protection agencies and protect your reputation by simply cleaning your email list and removing SMS gateway email addresses. In fact, isolating SMS gateway addresses is a good idea even if you’re not worried about getting blacklisted, fined or irritating people, for the simple reason that many cell phones can’t display html (formatted) messages.
There are hundreds of domain names (and growing), specific to cell phones and pagers, that email marketers should avoid. How do you spot them? Use a real-time Web Service like DOTS Email Validation that continuously updates its database of wireless domain names, and flags email addresses that are known to use SMS gateways. To test a few email addresses on this service, go to DOTS Email Validation Lookups and see for yourself.
If you’d like to test a list of email addresses, try our free-trial batch processing or sign up for a live XML free trial key that lets you integrate the service into your own system and try it out for 30 days. See the table below for just a few known SMS domain names to look out for:
1Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act
2Utility Consumers’ Action Network, non-profit, pubic interest consumer advocacy
May 9, 2011
How to Keep Up With Changing Local Sales & Use Tax Rates
“Tax complexity itself is a kind of tax.” ~Max Baucus
Since the beginning of the year, 25 different cities or counties in the state of Arkansas have had changes in their sales & use tax rates. In Texas, the state tax rate is 6.25%, but many cities and counties in the state may add up to 2% to that for a total maximum combined rate of 8.25%. Washington State has over 350 different tax districts. In fact, take a look at any U.S. state or Canadian province and you’ll find a host of tax-rate fluctuations and variations.
How do ecommerce sites handle the complexity of so many local tax rates and keep up with the continual tax changes that occur throughout the year?
Unless their shopping carts are customized, more than likely, they aren’t. Many people using standard shopping carts are not calculating the local-level sales tax rates. Instead, they use their shopping carts’ built-in state-level sales & use tax tables. Many people might not know that standard shopping carts do not calculate local sales tax rates. They provide single tax rates per base region (State).
Pros and cons of using a standard shopping cart:
- Pro: Easy integration; low initial setup costs.
- Con: May leave a company with a hefty tax bill at the end of the quarter.
By only charging standard state sales tax rates, and not specific tax rates based on the locations of sales, it means that at the end of each quarter, companies must account for the missed local revenues and remunerate each tax jurisdiction within each state in which they have sold goods.
One way around the problem of standard shopping carts that only calculate single sales tax rates per state is to customize it to include location-based tax calculation.
- Pro: Your cart is set up to handle US and Canadian local sales & use tax rates
- Con #1: Setup is time consuming and tedious. Customizing a shopping cart to calculate local taxes is no trivial task. It requires searching each state’s individual tax districts and then creating tables to include all of the various city and county sales & use tax rates.
- Con #2: Sales & use taxes rates often fluctuate throughout the year, and new tax districts are often added as cities grow or become incorporated. This means that ongoing research and updating of your tax tables are required.
Opting for Automation
The better solution? Use a tax lookup Web service that provides the current sales & use tax rates without requiring any further effort from you. A Web service is simply a software system that supports machine-to-machine communication over a network: your shopping cart and a remote server that hosts the service.
With a tax lookup Web service in place, each time a customer makes a purchase, the Web service invokes an operation to calculate the most current tax rate based on the customer’s location. It’s a no-muss-no-fuss solution that allows e-commerce companies to focus on their products and sales rather than committing IT resources to building and continuously updating a system that can often be had for a minimal monthly fee.
DOTS FastTaxSM is one such system. It’s one of the leading tax lookup Web services because for pennies per transaction, it offers the most current tax information for every county, city and state/province in the United States and Canada; and once a month, the FastTax development team is hard at work updating the FastTax database with the most current tax rates, painstakingly gathered from disparate resources.
What makes DOTS FastTax stand out is the developers behind it that are committed to accuracy, and their experience in dealing with contact verification issues. DOTS FastTax is designed to calculate sales tax based on customers’ exact locations which is preferred over a simple ZIP/Postal Code lookup, since postal codes may run across more than one tax district. DOTS FastTax does provide a ZIP/postal code lookup operation that can be used if an address is not available to you, or as a failover if the given address is invalid.
Having an automated system in place to calculate sales tax in your shopping cart is a smart solution for e-commerce companies because, more than just saving time and money, it saves you from the aggravation of having to deal with the complexities inherent in calculating and keeping current with all North American sales & use tax rates.
DOTS FastTax is the Web service of choice for many online companies because it provides the most current sales taxes per customer locations, with an available ZIP/postal code lookup. So, while tax complexity itself is a kind of tax, by using DOTS FastTax, you can free yourself from those imposed by your shopping cart.
April 27, 2011
XML Based Web services were developed with the goal that computers using different environments could communicate and exchange information. At Service Objects, Inc. our commitment to satisfying this objective continues with the implementation of our Web services supported through various languages and environments. It is our goal to simplify the implementation of our services and present real-world scenarios to illustrate its viability in business applications.
We’d like to present two of our newest examples that show how easy it is to integrate our Web services with 3rd party applications:
1. See Batch Email Validation Example Using Microsoft Excel
This example provides a useful tool for performing validation of large email lists through a simple one click interface.
2. See Google Maps / DOTS Address Validation Plus Mashup Example
In this next example, we have used the output of our DOTS Address Validation Plus US service as a parameter to the Google Maps API. Using DOTS Address Validation Plus not only provides mailbox information but also provides geolocation data as well.
February 21, 2011