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Best Practices for Point-of-Sale Email Address Collection

January 21, 2013 By Susan Tull
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The practice of collecting email addresses at the point of sale (POS) isn't a new one. However, more companies are embracing the trend, and they're doing so with increasing regularity. For example, when customers are at the cash register, many brick-and-mortar stores now offer to email them receipts.

Issues surrounding POS email address collection gained additional attention this past holiday season when the influential anti-spam group Spamhaus Project added some major retailers to blacklists. Spamhaus took this action against some companies because they sent too many emails with incorrect addresses. These addresses were assumed to have been incorrectly input by store associates at the point of sale.

Since the holidays, lively debate has ensued about the action taken by Spamhaus. Many believe it was punitive. Consider, for example, that the companies that were blacklisted were brands with a general history of adhering to permission email best practices. Furthermore, these companies wouldn't intentionally email to incorrect addresses during their busiest time of the year — or any time of the year, for that matter.

Whether Spamhaus was trying to send a message to retailers about their email acquisition practices, a few issues are important to understand when it comes to the exchange of a consumer email address for special access or other forms of value. These issues are even more important when that exchange occurs at the point of sale:

  • Transactional vs. marketing email content: If consumers provide their email addresses at the point of sale because they want an electronic alternative to a cash register receipt, first and foremost, send them the transactional details they're expecting, and do it right away. Should you send marketing content as well? You can always create terms and conditions for your acquisition program that you can refer disgruntled customers back to if they complain. If you want to avoid having disgruntled customers in the first place, however, there's no sure way to safely assume that customers will be happy to get your marketing emails even if they've given you their email addresses as part of a transaction. In fact, of 1,000 consumers surveyed by BlueHornet last year, almost 76 percent said that it's not OK for a company to start sending them promotional emails if they've purchased something from the company but didn't specifically sign up to receive emails from that company.
  • Single opt-in vs. confirmed opt-in emails: This issue is closely related to the previous point. The safest way to ensure positive post-purchase email relationships with customers is to confirm their opt-in. In the POS scenario above, include an opt-in call to action on the emailed receipt.
  • Age verification: Just because your customers have email addresses and they've willingly given them to you at the point of sale, that isn't a guarantee that they're old enough to participate in your marketing email program. Depending on the products you sell and your customers’ state of residence, there may be age restrictions you must comply with.

 
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