Data verification is a process where data is checked for accuracy and inconsistencies.
When it comes to your ecommerce business, customer data and data verification are of critical importance. Online businesses collect significant amounts of customer data on various points on their website like landing pages, shopping cart, etc.
If you aren’t utilizing data validation then it’s time to start. Here are 10 ways that data verification will impact your ecommerce business:
1. Prevent security fraud: Visitors interested in committing ecommerce fraud may provide falsified information. Data validation will help ward against stolen credit card information and identify theft. According to CyberSource, merchants lost $3.4 billion due to online fraud in 2011. Data verification prevents fraudulent information, since it checks that data is valid, sensible, reasonable, and secure before being processed.
2. Keep CRM database clean: No matter what CRM system you use, it can only be truly effective if clean, correct and useful data is being entered into it. Real-time data verification will ensure that your customer database stays clean from the get-go.
3. Save Time and Resources: Manually scrubbing and cleansing your customer database is time-consuming and costly. A better solution is to utilize real-time data verification tools that can instantly verify and validate your customer data. This frees up your company’s time and resources to work on other mission-critical projects. There is absolutely no margin for incorrect customer data, so leave data quality to the experts.
4. Eliminate undeliverable shipments: Ecommerce businesses should utilize data verification on shipping addresses. If you don’t, you are running the risk of losing your customers’ merchandise. See our infographic on the cost of undelivered mail. Address verification ensures your customers receive their orders in a timely manner.
5. Ensure e-receipts reach the inbox: If you’re an ecommerce vendor, it is imperative e-receipts are delivered to the right email address. Email verification will help with this.
6. Increase customer retention: Data verification on customer records (e.g. names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers) increases the ability to re-market through various channels. If you want to cross-sell and up-sell, then email, direct mail, and SMS marketing campaigns are critical. Without accurate customer data, campaigns don’t reach the intended target market. The result is no critical repeat business. Validate customer data and your marketing campaigns will increase in effectiveness.
7. Improve customer analytics: By collecting standardized data, ecommerce businesses can create more accurate insights about their customers. Our judgments are only as good as the data we draw from to make those judgments. Data validation is the process of ensuring that a program operates on clean, correct and useful data. As a result, you can make clearer conclusions and accurate representations from your customer set.
8. Enhance customer satisfaction: Errors frustrate the customer. It is all too easy for someone to unintentionally type incorrect information on your website. Consumers love online shopping for its speed and ease in reaching the checkout. However, it is these exact characteristics that cause customers to unknowingly “fat-finger” their email or phone number. These minor typing errors cause critical problems for ecommerce businesses. They make online shopping a burdensome process when shipments and e-receipts aren’t sent to the proper recipient (see points 4 and 5). This causes a customer service nightmare. What is the solution? Don’t rely on your customers to provide accurate data. Be a savvy merchant that is two steps ahead of the customer. Do not anger the consumer by waiting for problems to crop up. Instead, delight customers by verifying and validating contact data. Real-time solutions ensure that customer data is cleansed while they are still engaged on your website.
9. Enable Email Marketing: The first step to a successful email marketing campaign is a clean, deliverable email list to send to. See our blog entry on how to enhance your email marketing.
10. Increase Revenue: The bottom-line is that data verification works to improve ROI. No matter what you are selling online, accurate customer data is important. Real-time data validation tools ensure your site is optimized properly for first-time conversion and subsequent repeat business.
The largest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday, is on its way. The growth of this unofficial shopping holiday, and the growth of e-commerce sites has been driven over the past decade by one factor: convenience.
Instead of battling mobs of shoppers in crowded malls, circling the lot to try and find a parking space, consumers are attracted to the ease and opportunity of ordering products and services from their home and having those items delivered quickly, easily, and cheaply.
If you want a successful e-commerce business, you need StrikeIron’s data verification solutions in place to address inefficiencies associated with traditional customer information collection.
Bad Data Means Short-Term Problems
Most e-commerce sites rely on customers to input shipping and billing information. Unchecked, this regularly translates into incorrect mailing addresses and phone numbers, and invalid email accounts. The resulting errors are considerable, with orders arriving to wrong destinations and the additional costs associated with returns and reshipping. These problems drain profits and prevent employees from carrying out their jobs and the company’s mission.
Bad Data Hinders Long-Term Relationships
As if lost profits and productivity weren’t enough, poor data collection and management keep companies from developing extended company-consumer relationships past the initial purchase. If a customer enters an invalid email address, the retailer has no way to pass along information regarding future sales, promotions, or special offers. This becomes the long tail of bad data because it significantly reduces opportunities for future customer revenue. And to add insult, companies with invalid customer email addresses are more likely to be branded as a spammer.
Good Data Verification With a Simple Line of Code
Traditional, in-house data management tools are available, but they require significant start-up and maintenance costs, time, and resources to use. And after all of that, they’re not always accurate.
Cloud-based services, such as StrikeIron’s powerful contact verification tools, can easily be integrated into e-commerce sites, often with a simple line of code. Unlike traditional tools, cloud-based data verification solutions require little time to use. They provide instant results that are extremely accurate at an affordable price. All of our solutions have free trials so give it a try today!
Tell us what you think about data quality on your e-commerce site.
eBay held its X.commerce launch event this week, describing its new platform as an "operating system for commerce" where e-commerce blends with traditional brick and mortar retail. The idea is that "e"-commerce has now been replaced by "x"-commerce. What used to be two separate worlds, Web and physical store retail, are now driving each other and the line between the two is definitely being blurred.
For example, Smartphones such as the iPhone and Android are enabling people to shop in a retail store, price check online simply by scanning a barcode, and either travel to another local store for a better price or alternatively order on the spot from an online retailer.
Discounts on Twitter and Groupon deals are now driving foot traffic to physical retail locations. Traditional retail is investing more and more in online presence such as Facebook pages. PayPal, now processing $4.7B annually in payments (3x what they were doing five years ago), is expanding from email-based payments to mobile payments and even supporting payments in the physical world, with much here still to come.
eBay is investing heavily in this concept of physical and Web commerce blending. If you look at their acquisitions, you can see that they have been laying the groundwork for this for quite some time. They purchased Magento, an open-source Web application development environment fine-tuned for e-commerce sites, over the Summer. They acquired GSI Commerce in a major investment for $2.4B a few months back as well, a company that helps build online shopping sites for brick-and-mortar retailers. In the past year they have also acquired RedLaser (smartphone-driven barcode price comparison), Milo (a database of traditional retail locations' products and their prices), and Where.com (location-based advertising).
Piece by piece, they are pulling together components of an entire commerce supply chain, or a "full commerce stack" so to speak, and are delivering it in a one-stop retail shop now known as X.commerce. The idea is to develop one's site using the Magento platform, use PayPal as the payment mechanism, and then automate the entire process of delivering inventory to all of the various marketplaces eBay drives. This includes its own commerce sites, the RedLaser database, Where.com, Milo, and within what other acquisitions or partnerships that will come in the future.
For StrikeIron, e-commerce and point-of-sale have always been some of our more prevalent use cases. Our customers integrate and use Cloud-based solutions from us such as real-time sales tax calculation services, customer data quality solutions for better data at the point of capture, shipping address verification, email address validation, phone number validation, foreign currency rates for price localization, and even mobile messaging for shipment notifications and ongoing opt-in marketing campaigns.
Integration to these Web services in the Cloud help our customers optimize their commerce transactions with very little complexity. So it was very refreshing to hear eBay CEO John Donahoe mention that data, in many different forms, was the most important asset a retailer had and needed to apply to remain competitive in the new world of X.commerce. The idea of reducing the Wild West of commerce components into a standard, full-stack platform will significantly make things easier for our customers, as will a focus on high quality and complete data as part of the process.
As Point of Sale (POS) systems move to the Cloud and ecommerce transactions continue to grow at double digit rates, utilizing external APIs to optimize and essentially outsource functionality that isn't a core part of your business makes a lot of sense.
Leveraging Cloud-based business functionality not only provides short-term and long-term cost-savings, but also helps getting systems and new capabilities into production sooner rather than later. Using external resources also frees up internal resources to focus on those requirements and activities that are core to the business.
For example, when a product is sold over the Web, the automated ecommerce transaction can kick off a series of calls to external APIs that swiftly and accurately:
- obtain the required tax rate of the buyer based on geographic location
- verify the shipping address against constantly-updated postal data to ensure proper order fulfillment
- validate a customer provided a correct phone number and valid email address for communication purposes
- obtain other demographics for customer profiling purposes
In addition, prices can be shown in local currencies using live currency rates for greater accuracy, and shipment notifications can be sent via an SMS text message for enhanced customer service.
In each case, the functionality can be achieved either with an in-house system and all of the software, hardware, and ongoing data management ($$$$) that goes along with it, or an external API can be called, typically with a single line of code, as part of the automated business process triggered by the transaction. Hopefully, it is fairly obvious which would be easier, less costly, and more quickly achieved in most cases.
All of these capabilities, accessible in the form of SOAP and REST APIs, are available from StrikeIron for easy integration to many different ecommerce systems and development environments. This is why ecommerce and POS systems represent many of our top use-cases, as the real-time and "Cloud ready" nature of our offerings represent a better ecommerce experience for many of our customers and their customers.
At StrikeIron, we have hundreds and hundreds of customers that use our address verification capabilities to ensure impeccable address quality in various business systems. These uses include CRM, call centers, marketing systems, for use in various GIS systems, and also to drastically reduce customer service problems associated with incorrectly shipped products in e-commerce scenarios.
Each of these individual customers is verifying addresses "in the Cloud" using our subscription-based address verification
offerings (delivered as easy-to-integrate SOAP and REST APIs), often several times a second each, twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.
The primary reasons customers work with StrikeIron are because of our high performance delivery, the investments in reliable infrastructure we have made, and the zero data maintenance required to work with our products (we do all of the reference data updates in our own data center so our customers don't have to worry about the time consuming and costly process).
However, from time to time we get questions as to why a certain street address abbreviation gets applied, why a suite number gets standardized the way it does, and several other similar questions. Invariably, in the case of USA address verification for example (we also have Canadian and global address verification capabilities), we point people to the postal addressing standards documentation provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS). These guidelines define the correct abbreviations and address processing logic that is utilized within our systems. These rules also ensure the greatest level of address quality across multiple systems and use cases.
If you'd like to know exactly what these standards are, the USPS guidelines can be found here: http://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub28/pub28.pdf
So in addition to all of other great performance, reliability, and reduction of complexity reasons to integrate StrikeIron address verification into Websites, business processes, and other applications, another great reason is the assurance that we are utilizing the highest possible standard of address quality processing when we deliver verified, standardized, and enhanced addresses by the millisecond, anywhere in the World.
There are several great reasons for integrating live foreign currency exchange rates into applications and Websites, especially since it is so easy and cost-effective to do.
For example, Melissa Smith of retailcustomerexperience.com reported this month
that online retailers are seeing as much as a 25% online sales gain by showing prices in local currencies when utilizing a visitor's browser or IP address
to determine location.
Also, companies with a global presence can track expenses such as media costs and the corresponding sales revenue associated with those media costs using current exchange rates, especially when the expenses are being paid out of foreign accounts. Using accurate daily rates prevents these costs and sales numbers from being misleading due to global currency swings, or specific currencies trending up or down over certain periods of time. This also enables decision makers to better gauge success or failure with international advertising campaigns.
This is not only true with advertising costs, but any international sales or accounting reports can have a degree of consistency to them when they are unified using a single, accurate currency rate. This is important because (and especially lately) fluctuations between the US Dollar and the Euro for example can be 5% or more in a given month, and can see 20% fluctuations in a year. This is also true of many other currencies relative to each other as well.
One possible solution is to manually obtain current foreign exchange rates from the Web and plug them into your Website content management system on a periodic basis. However, this can be a hassle, requires manual work, and if not done often enough can lead to serious accuracy problems.
Another is to screen-scrape rates from various Websites via a script of some kind. This may cause legal complications, as well as run the risk of scripts breaking and having to be re-implemented when the source Websites change.
There are also other vendors offering currency rate tables via CSV files for purchase that also require these rates to be stored, managed, and maintained and can add significant process complexity into application or Website development cycles.
The best way to integrate foreign exchange rates (as with most data that changes frequently) is to utilize a SOAP or REST-based Web service where the current rate is retrieved wherever and whenever it is required for a calculation. This ensures the greatest possible accuracy, and eliminates manual processing and the costs associated with maintaining, storing, and updating currency rate tables. It also requires no hardware or software to be purchased, and essentially enables the plucking of currency rates from the "Cloud" when required. It is benefits like these that are causing the current surge in cloud computing.
And since this approach uses an API, the currency rates can be integrated into anything that can consume a Web service, including popular SAAS applications such as Salesforce.com, ecommerce applications such as Magento, and into smartphone devices such as the iPhone and Android platforms. And, depending of course on the platform, the integration can be achieved with just a few simple lines of code.StrikeIron's Foreign Currency Rates Web Service API
carries current exchange rates for over 160 currencies that are updated every thirty minutes throughout each business day. These rates are aggregated from a variety of global banks and currency markets. Historical rates back to 2004 based on the London close are also provided.
There is a lot of commerce occurring around the globe. When it can be simple, straight-forward, and cost-effective to implement foreign currency rates into any application, Website, or business process, using them ought to fall into the "no-brainer" category.