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Top Ten Practices: Correct Collection Leads to Improved Connection

For the past several years, marketers have been capturing email addresses at brick-and-mortar locations. As we approach another holiday buying season there will likely be a bump in this practice. The immediate value driver for the consumer is typically an electronic receipt, which is certainly a convenience, but the practice also helps brands to connect with customers. There are tradeoffs, however. Capturing the address in a crowded checkout line can create friction and frustration, and errors can be made and communication regarding use of the email address is often delegated to a part-time sales clerk. To assist retailers, the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) made a call for feedback on best practices and has published a document based on feedback from experts representing retailers, ESPs, digital marketers and privacy advocates (see otalliance.org/retailpos). Ultimately, the issue comes down to providing the consumer with notice, choice and control throughout the process. Here are the top ten best practices: 

  1. Collection Is Optional. Consumers need to know that providing an email address is not a requirement. The motivation can be an electronic receipt, discounts or other benefits, but an email address is not required.
  2. Purpose. The ideal practice is to send email only for the purpose originally intended (e.g., sending a receipt or product/ safety information). Additional uses can be layered in with further permissions from the consumer.
  3. Name Capture Mechanism. Typical practices here are to have the sales clerk enter the address in the POS system or via a physical sign-up sheet. These methods are highly error prone and possibly subject to abuse. Instead, a mechanism to allow the buyer to enter their own address (or verify the spelling with them) is preferred, coupled with a true opt-in mechanism for the email.
  4. Opt-In vs Opt-Out. Consumers should have control over how their address is used. Give them a choice at checkout (via a checkbox to receive promotions in addition to receipts) or a choice at the end of the receipt email to “opt up” for additional mailings, possibly with an incentive such as a purchase discount. 
  5. Consumer Notices and Disclosures. This is possibly the most difficult issue to address during the rush of checkout. Newer, more consumer-friendly POS systems may allow for short, layered notices with clear choice, or this could be provided on a laminated card by the sales clerk. The key is to communicate policies efficiently and not delegate the responsibility to the sales clerk, since the written policy will always override anything said verbally.
  6. Marketing to Minors. There are restrictions regarding marketing to children 13 years old or younger, so there may need to be an electronic or verbal check to verify the age of the address owner. 
  7. Warranty Activation. Though it is tempting, name collection at POS should NOT be used to activate warranties, largely due to the gap between purchase and use of the product.
  8. Gift Receipts. Use of gift receipts is a common practice and can complicate the email receipt process. Ideally, the purchase systems would allow for electronic mailing and physical printing of a gift receipt to accompany the gift.
  9. Proof of Purchase for Rebates. Electronic receipts should include a transaction number or code that can be verified to claim a rebate.
  10. Returns. Retailers offering electronic receipts must be willing to accept electronic receipts to process returns.

This article also appeared as a column in The Marketer Quarterly Fall 2015.  You can follow OTA’s regular column and learn more at The Marketer Quarterly.