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Removing Garbage in, Garbage Out from your e-commerce services.

October 20, 2015

I love data.

The more I have, the more I can investigate to make smarter and better decisions. But sometimes our rush to make things work and get new customers or gather information leaves us with poor data. We then find that many of the new customers we’ve gathered don’t have valid email addresses; or we find that parcels are failing to be delivered first time due to typos or errors in the delivery address.

So here are our top three tips for making your data gathering more accurate and more reliable.

  1. Use address verification

When you want to collect address information use a web service like PCA Predict (previously Postcode Anywhere). It takes a customer’s house number\name plus a postcode to return an accurate Royal Mail approved delivery address. The customer no longer needs to make decision about how to squeeze the lines of their address into your boxes – you’ve done it all for them in a handful of keystrokes. Faster checkout and more accurate data. You can register for a free trial here.

  1. Use email address verification

The classic way of verifying a user email address is to email them a verification link to confirm that they can receive email before confirming the customer’s account. This is fine for online freemium services where the customer can only access the free goodies with a verified email. But few e-commerce companies have gone this route as it increases customer drop out in the checkout tunnel significantly.

Fear not, you can still do things to avoid a first time email bounce.

By performing a simple data check to ensure the submitted address has [email protected] –  you will catch many email address typos and prompt the user to type more accurately.

Otherwise, you can conduct a more comprehensive check, such as an API call using a service like KickBox. This tries to verify that the email address is not only syntactically correct but that it is likely to be deliverable by checking server MX records. A similar service is offered by PCA Predict.

  1. Use phone number verification

Often e-commerce checkouts ask for phone numbers so that customer service staff or couriers can confirm delivery details. Again a simple data check will help significantly.  By using a service like Data8’s Phone number validation, it checks in real time that the phone is connected to the UK phone network without actually making the phone ring.


So with those three things fixed everything is covered and everything will work just fine?

Well, despite how good data verification has become you do need to make sure you deal with odd cases where things don’t go as planned.

Make sure that:

–  Your code can cope with any of the verification web services being unavailable. Does the system gracefully fail allowing the user to manually enter data?

–  You understand all possible use cases. For example, if you deliver to the UK and ROI make sure that postcode field is not a required field if the customer selects ROI as a delivery country. Very few parts of Ireland have a postcode at all and so you making non-existent data a requirement could lead to abandoned checkouts.

– Verification services will claim they are 95%+ accurate. Does that mean that 1 in 20 customers can’t checkout? Ouch. Make sure any verification you use can be overridden if the customer confirms that what they entered is correct

Confused or bewildered by the advice above? Why not give us a call and we’d be happy to chat through how we can help make your systems more accurate, more accessible and more able to deliver  a great customer experience.

Both Venture Stream and our technology division Commvia would love to hear from you.


Written by Andy

Andy is Venture Stream’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years’ experience in ecommerce consultancy, design and retail marketing.

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