Email validation best practice guide

With most people checking their emails more than once a day, it is one of, if not the most important way to communicate with your customers. Therefore, it’s vital that the email addresses you capture are accurate.

In this guide, you’ll discover just how popular the medium of email is to people and businesses around the globe, the types of businesses taking advantage of email, the importance of collecting the correct email address, and how to ensure you capture only valid email address data. Learn about the different types of email validation available and the key aspects that make up an effective email validation solution.

Chapter 1

Email usage: The past, the present and the future

With the growing trend of messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Skype and Slack, it is easy to understand why there is a common perception that email is decreasing in popularity.

However, in reality email usage has been rapidly growing over the past few years, and, according to Statista, there are currently over 3.8 billion email users globally, an enormous 50% of the world’s population, and this is set to increase to 4.3 billion email users by 2022. 

This shows that email is a method of communication that is, in fact, only growing stronger. As more and more people begin to enter the online world, email continues to be used despite advances in technology and increasingly new forms of communication.

Number of email users worldwide from 2017 to 2022 (in billions)

(Source: The Radicati Group, via Statista, 2018)

Statista also explains that in 2018, approximately 281 billion emails were sent and received, and more than 333 billion are expected to be sent in 2022. 

Number of sent and received emails per day worldwide from 2017 to 2022 (in billions)

(Source: The Radicati Group, via Statista, 2018)

Did you know..?

According to Convince and Convert, people who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people that do not receive email offers.

Chapter 2

Consumer survey: attitudes towards email marketing

While universally popular with businesses and consumers worldwide, email is not without its issues.

To find out more about current email usage and the problems often associated with capturing email addresses, Loqate surveyed over 3,000 email users from across the UK, US and Germany.

Email usage

Of the 3,000+ people we spoke to, over half said they checked their emails more than once a day. This suggests that targeted email campaigns are a great way to reach customers as they are likely to see your communication within 24 hours. In the UK, users aged between 45 and 54 check their emails most frequently, while in the US it’s the slightly younger 35-44 age group that is most active when it comes to checking their inbox. In Germany, those in the 55-64 age bracket check their emails most regularly, with 68% checking them more than once a day.

We also looked at the accuracy of entry, whether intentional or not. One of the main reasons respondents were happy to enter a correct email address was to confirm an order, or set up an account. This was true for almost half of respondents in the UK and US, however this differed in Germany, where the main reason almost half the respondents enter email data correctly was in order to get relevant news.

Email issues

One factor businesses need to be aware of is that on average, almost one in five people deliberately enter an incorrect email address, with the majority stating that falsifying their email address was an attempt to protect their privacy.

One in five people deliberately enter an incorrect email address

Over a quarter of all respondents have experienced complications as a result of not receiving a business email when they should have. One of the main issues respondents experienced as a result of missing emails was the ability to contact customer support, followed closely by not receiving an order confirmation. Over 50% of all respondents stated that they were unlikely to trust a brand if they failed to send vital communications due to incorrect email data. This is a shocking statistic for businesses, and one which should be taken on board in order to restore faith in customers and ensure communications are delivered to the correct recipient.

Of those surveyed, 12% of respondents resolutely stated that they would be more likely to trust a brand if their signup form warned them when they entered an incorrect email address, giving them the chance to re-enter it.

Taking these survey results into consideration, it appears there is still a long way to go when it comes to businesses improving their email data and building stronger relationships with customers.

Chapter 3

The importance of data quality

A wide range of businesses across a variety of sectors now rely on email as a key way to communicate with their customers.

For example, it is used by companies in retail, hospitality, banking and insurance to send confirmation of goods, services and accounts, as well as sending offers and important notifications, and for organisations such as charities, collecting email addresses allows a smooth signup process, enabling the user to register for an event or donate money.  

Your contact database is an extremely precious asset – it holds all your customer data. However, as with address or phone data, if your email address data is inaccurate, your customer relationship opportunities will suffer. With incorrect email addresses, poor delivery and response rates occur, leading to negative brand reputation, mistrust and frustration. It can also damage your sender reputation, which can be extremely harmful to your company and your marketing efforts. Incorrect email address data also leads to high bounce rates, both hard and soft, which will affect sender reputation.

If your email address data is inaccurate, your customer relationship opportunities will suffer.

It is therefore necessary to ensure you are capturing only valid email addresses in your online forms, and the most effective way to do this is by implementing a trusted email validation tool.

As with address verification, it is easier and more cost effective to validate an email address at the point of capture rather than cleansing it further down the line. This inevitably costs a lot more, not to mention the loss in revenue and reputational impact when customer communications are missed.

Sender reputation

Businesses need to pay attention to protecting their sender reputation as this will be a key factor as to what emails will be sent to customers. Sender reputation is essentially a score that is given to a business by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). If a score is high, an ISP is far more likely to allow an email to be sent to the recipient. In this case, a business has a strong sender reputation. However, if a score is low, there will be several consequences including emails being delivered to spam and junk folders, or even worse, not being delivered at all. This reflects a poor sender reputation and should be a top priority for businesses looking to leverage this critical channel.

Chapter 4

The benefits of email validation

Email is one of the most preferred and effective communication channels, but worryingly, only 10% of the email addresses captured are accurate, and the reason for this poor data is human error.

Only by collecting accurate email addresses, will businesses really get to know their customers, and the use of email validation is by far the most effective way way to ensure quality email address data. 

The key benefits of using an effective email validation tool include increased email deliverability, meaning businesses reach more customers, an uplift in successful email marketing campaigns, a reduction in hard bounces and emails being blocked, helping businesses maintain a positive sender reputation, more efficient onboarding for new customers and a decrease in fake registrations that will clutter databases.

Chapter 5

What type of email validation is right for my business?

There are several ways to validate an email address, but in order to find the right one for your business, it is a good idea to research each where possible.

Regex email validation

Regex, or regular expression, is a string of characters that is used to describe a search pattern. A regular expression can be used to validate the format of an email address.

However, there are several key issues with regex that should be taken into consideration. The main problem is that it is extremely restrictive, failing to cater for rare email addresses. Characters such as !#$%&'*+-/=?^_`{|}~ are all valid, but not recognised by regex when used before the @ symbol, meaning any email address that includes these before the local string will not be recognised as valid. 

Another area where regex falls against the alternatives is that it fails to check several important factors, such as whether the email domain exists, and whether the user account exists.

Post email validation

A second option when it comes to email validation is post validation, or double opt-in, where an email is sent to the email address that was provided and the user then clicks through to confirm their email address. While this is obligatory in many European countries, if an email address is mistyped, the user won’t receive a confirmation email, meaning you will never capture the email address.

When it comes to selecting an effective email validation tool, checking the syntax is obviously an important characteristic. However, it shouldn’t be the main or only characteristic. Investing in a tool that conducts additional, rigorous checks in order for accurate and valid responses to be returned is essential and should not be disregarded.

Real-time email validation 

To ensure an email address is valid, an email validation solution should also check that the domain exists, and it is able to receive inbound messages in real-time. Real-time email validation is not only a better user experience, but also sends trust signals. 

Batch email cleanse

Batch cleanse is a method that can be used to clean the email addresses you already hold in your database. This is a good idea if you have never validated email data as it gives you a chance to reduce bounce rates and avoid complaints. However, it is better to use a real-time email validation tool from the start that will allow you to capture only valid email addresses to avoid further costs, customer frustration and the risk of poor reputation. 

It is common for a user to register an email account only to never use it. Regular checks can help to avoid incorrect data, which ultimately helps long term growth and efficiency.

Chapter 6

Important questions to ask before selecting an email address provider

When it comes to validating an email address, simply checking for an @symbol is not enough. In order to effectively validate an email address, here’s three questions to ask your supplier:

1) Does the service correct syntax errors?

Often, developers see syntax errors in the form of a dialog box after inputting a piece of invalid code. When entering email addresses, humans make often make mistakes such as typos. Syntax validation identifies these typos, preventing the capture of inaccurate email addresses, while allowing clean addresses to pass through.

2) Do you check if the domain exists and that the email address is live and in use? 

Ensuring you use a supplier who checks whether the domain, mail server and the account exists is important. It's also worth checking if your email validation services checks for ‘Catch All’ to ensure captured email addresses which are live and in use.

3) How do I avoid spam traps? 

To anti-spam organisations and inbox providers, falling into a spam trap can make you look like a spammer, which can significantly impact your sender reputation. A bad reputation when it comes to sending emails is something to avoid, because it prevents your emails from getting delivered to the intended recipient. 

A spam trap looks like a real email address, but it's not used, and it doesn’t belong to a real person. Its only purpose is to identify spammers by inbox and black list providers to catch malicious senders. Are you checking email addresses to ensure your communication is safe?

There are two types of spam traps, pristine traps and recycled traps, and since they look like regular email addresses, and there isn’t a publicly available list, it's hard to spot them in your mailing list. 

The best solution to the problem is to regularly review your email lists and clean them up using a batch cleanse.  Since spam traps aren’t used by real people they aren’t active accounts, so it's also important to ensure your upfront validation tool that checks the email address is live and in use. 

By using Loqate’s email validation, Circus Internet GmbH was able to increase the response rate of sent emails, and has achieved a cost reduction through more efficient scheduling of working hours.

 - Lisa Kohl, Controlling & Business Intelligence Manager, - Circus Internet GmbH