March 23, 2011, 4:25 PM

Ace Hardware adds to its e-mail database

The Ace Rewards loyalty program predates e-mail, but with help the retailer tracks members down.

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Ace Hardware had a problem. It had 20 million members in its Ace Rewards loyalty program, but far fewer e-mail addresses than that because the program predated e-mail. That meant the retail chain hadn’t collected e-mail addresses for many of its members when they signed up for the program.

But, with the help of e-mail database vendor FreshAddress, the multichannel hardware retailer has found e-mail addresses for 25% of the members with missing e-mail addresses. Ace also found current addresses for more than half of its members that had changed e-mail addresses since they signed up.

Ace Hardware shares its loyalty program database information with FreshAddress several times a year. FreshAddress compares Ace’s list with its own database of consumer information to find matches and new data. For example, Ace may have only the postal address of a Rewards program member, but that member may have voluntarily given his e-mail address to a magazine subscription vendor. FreshAddress has access to consumer information from other sources and matches the name and postal address with the e-mail from the magazine to provide Ace with more complete contact information for that customer.

The first time Ace and FreshAddress collated their data, it found e-mail addresses for 15.8% of Ace Rewards members. Two further passes last year added more. “In October 2010, we added 700,000 new e-mail addresses to our database, increasing the active e-mails in our customer file by 27% in just one run,” says Cari Elder Long, customer relationship management and promotions specialist for Ace. She says three passes at the data increased the size of the Ace Rewards e-mail database by 66%.

Armed with the new addresses, Ace and FreshAddress then send an e-mail to Ace Rewards members that provide an opt-out option; recipients who don’t reply to specifically ask not to receive e-mail are added to Ace’s e-mail database.

“We try to send a respectful message that essentially gives the recipient the control over future marketing,” a FreshAddress spokeswoman says.

The reason the permission message is not opt-in is that few people will take an action to accept messages, she says. Recipients typically have five days to opt out of receiving messages before they are added to the active e-mail database.

Ace Hardware is No. 481 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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