Life After How Brands Can Recoup

To hear the critics tell it, consumers will suffer the most from Verizon’s decision to dump 4.5 million addresses. But there is another victim: brand marketers. They will lose access to some of their best customers -- causing potentially untold financial loss, warned Dave Dague, executive vice president of Marketing at Infutor.

Take a brand with 80,000 users in its CRM database and on apps. “They have a big hole,” Dague said in an interview. “They’re cut off from their primary way to communicate with those consumers. It’s very serious for them.”

But it involves more than communication. “The email address is a key identifier in things like your favorite shopping sites, or the apps you use, and even some banking transactions,”  

It’s especially complicated considering that some Verizon users will switch to AOL or Gmail. Others may disappear. How does the brand even find them, let alone reengage them?

In some cases, the consumer may take the initiative. “I’m a big ESPN fan,” Dague said. “If I had a Verizon account, it’s not going make me happy if I lose my connection to ESPN. I’d want to restore it pretty quickly.”

But not every customer will bother. Then it’s up to the brand to restore the connection. But how?

We’re not trying to scare you, but roughly 255 million individuals have email addresses in this country. On average, each person has three, and many use aliases, Dague said.

Worse, there is continuous churn, even without the loss of the Verizon addresses. Dague cited an article in Print Week saying that there are 19 million ghost email accounts in the UK. Applied to a population of 65 million, that’s a 30% abandonment rate. In the U.S., that percentage would constitute almost 70 million email addresses, Dague continued.

It’s no small thing to link the aliases, the ghost addresses the active addresses and the mobile apps to finally say: “This is the same person.” But it can be done.

Dague’s solution (obviously) is to turn to a consumer identity management company to help. Infutor is one, but there are several others. For one thing, they can tie it all together, using a persistent identifier, or PiD. “It’s a great way for brands to find these loyal consumers once they’re lost,” Dague said.

All of this is done in an aggregate or batch mode and the process is a quick one -- lasting anywhere from hours to days, depending on the scope of the problem. Companies like Infutor have identity graphs or databases that contain most of core identifiers of a consumer, Dague said.

Verizon announced on March 17 that it is deactivating its 4.5 million email addresses -- essentially abandoning its service.

Dague dodged the “political” question about the wisdom of Verizon’s action. But he noted that it will be "disruptive to the brand-consumer relationship, and both sides are going to have to resolve it as soon as possible.”

So who wins and who loses? “I would foresee several winners,” he said. “AOL might be one, and Gmail and others. It’s going to be a good thing for other folks that offer email accounts.”

And what’s the total damage of millions of email accounts going south?

“I couldn’t put a number on it, if but if these are the top active segments where you’re deriving most of your revenue, the revenue leakage can be pretty serious over time,” Dague said. “You can’t contact them anymore, and they haven’t reached out to you. Industrywide, it would definitely be in the millions.”

And what should a brand do? Here are some tips that Dague sent these tips in an email:

  1. Check your customer and subscriber email database to identify customers with emails. Proactively reach out to them to ensure that they know the change is coming and request that they contact you with an alternative email account.
  2. When the change occurs, utilize a consumer identity partner that maintains and updates consumer identifiers (in this case, all of the email accounts that the affected consumers use) to obtain updated and live email addresses for your affected customers. Develop campaigns to re-establish and restore the connection with these valuable customers.
  3. Periodically work with your consumer identity partner to ensure you always have your customers’ active email accounts. Consumers often abandon email accounts for many reasons, from frustration with spam, to personal name changes due to marriage, divorce, or to simply diversify how they choose to communicate with family vs. friends, vs. business associates, etc.   
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