Yesmail Launches “Append” Service

Yesmail is joining the firms offering “e-mail append,” though the Chicago-based firm says its methodology makes the controversial practice more privacy-friendly and appealing to marketers.

The service, which debuted this week in partnership with consumer data giant Acxiom, adds e-mail addresses to marketers’ offline consumer databases. CMGI-owned Yesmail offers access to about 42 million e-mail addresses, and said it generally sees a 10 to 15 percent match rate on appending addresses to marketers’ files.

But critics contend that append services infringe on consumers’ privacy, since consumers may not have necessarily opted in to receive online marketing from the companies from which they’ve made purchases offline — and may view e-mail from them as spam.

Nevertheless, e-mail append is growing in appeal because it grants marketers new, sought-after channels through which to reach consumers. Last month, the Direct Marketing Association’s Association for Interactive Marketing subsidiary took a stab at outlining best practices for e-mail append, designed to forestall privacy concerns as greater numbers of marketers explore multi-channel operations.

“We’ve seen very strong demand,” said Dave Linhardt, senior vice president of data services at Yesmail. “Customers have been asking us for a long time for a product like Yesmail Append … and we’re seeing pretty significant movement already.”

The firm initially began its work in append early this year, reselling other providers’ services. But with the introduction of its proprietary service, Yesmail said it has learned, from working with other vendors, how to avoid most of the privacy concerns surrounding the process.

For one thing, Yesmail said it gets a guarantee from clients that the offline database they hand over for appending is either their customer file, or a file with which they’ve interacted within the previous 24 months.

The e-mail addresses that Yesmail appends to offline profiles, meanwhile, come from consumers who Linhardt said have given their explicit permission to receive third-party mail. He also said the firm sends out a permission notification message to consumers at the appended e-mail addresses, affording them an opportunity to opt-out.

“We want to be the most conservative in terms of privacy and precision,” Linhardt said. “We go through fair amount of rigor to make sure these are not prospects, but customers. We are paying very close attention to the DMA … and a couple of the other industry groups out there that are helping to guide vendors to what best practices are, and we meet or exceed those guidelines.”

So far, the effort would seem to be paying off. Yesmail Append’s early clients include two financial services companies and a Fortune 500 retailer, which the firm said are planning large campaigns in coming months.

“Most marketers want to be involved [in append], they’re just concerned about issues,” Linhardt said. “We’re helpful in guiding them through the process.”

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