Customer Heroes

Soft Surroundings Improves Accuracy with Return Path and BriteVerify

Soft Surroundings is a women’s apparel, beauty, and home furnishings company based in St. Louis, MO. With their first catalog mailed out in 1999, the company has grown over the years and now has stores across the country along with an impressive online storefront. Their mission is to provide women with clothes that are unique to their individual styles while maintaining comfort throughout the day.

Challenge

As email providers get more savvy about what email recipients want in their inbox, marketers must stay on top of keeping their email list clean. The algorithms that determine inbox placement have gotten smarter over the years—more variables than ever go into determining whether your email ends up in the coveted position at the top of a recipient’s inbox.

As a company that had been collecting email addresses for many years without approaching list hygiene in a systematic way, Soft Surroundings knew that their list was dated, contained old and invalid addresses, and hampered their deliverability. This left them vulnerable to spam traps, increased complaints to their customer service center, and high bounce rates. As another complication, in addition to collecting emails with orders online, they collect email addresses at their call center and retail stores, where typos and invalid addresses were common. All this added up to an email list with diminished efficiency and lowered productivity.

According to Gail Buffington, eCommerce Director for Soft Surroundings, they had several goals when tackling list hygiene. She stated, “The first two goals were to clean up the existing list and make sure that going forward we were identifying invalid addresses before they reached the subscriber list. Once this was done, we needed a strategy to make sure we continued these efforts going forward.” They knew this was an endeavor that would require both internal resources and some outside help.

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“We reduced our hard bounces on marketing emails by over 45 percent and we removed over 150,000 invalid email addresses from our POS system alone. Without invalid addresses clogging up our list, data from our email service provider becomes more accurate and actionable, and our open and click rates become more reflective of our actual performance.”

Gail Buffington

eCommerce Director

Solution

The team at Soft Surroundings began by reaching out to Return Path about their partnership on email validation with BriteVerify. Using Real-Time Email Validation, they put their entire email file, stretching back over a decade, through the validation process. Unsurprisingly, many of the addresses came back as invalid and had to be wiped from the system.

The next step was to ensure that they were getting good email addresses at the point of collection. By adding Real-Time Email Validation to the site as well as the call center, they could catch problems with emails before the customer continues to checkout.

Results

Even though a majority of the original email addresses came back as invalid, this gave Soft Surroundings a starting point to reengage with some customers. When a customer who had previously had an invalid email on file came back to a store or placed a phone order, the associate or agent could use that opportunity to request a new address. In many cases, customers had a new email or the previous email had been mis-keyed—now they’re able to reach back out to that customer.

After ensuring they were collecting valid email addresses, the contacts to the call center were reduced dramatically. In addition, the company has streamlined their mobile checkout flow by removing the second “enter email address” field. Finally, it has given them another tool against fraudulent orders.

For Soft Surroundings, the benefits of a clean list are numerous. After using Real-Time Email Validation, Buffington noted, “We reduced our hard bounces on marketing emails by over 45 percent and we removed over 150,000 invalid email addresses from our POS system alone. Without invalid addresses clogging up our list, data from our email service provider becomes more accurate and actionable, and our open and click rates become more reflective of our actual performance.” While validating an email list doesn’t replace best practices on email permissions, it is a critical component of any marketer’s deliverability strategy.

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