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Jul 30, 2008
Case Study

Stop Bounces with Sales Receipts, Build List 71%

SUMMARY: Collecting email addresses in retail locations has long been a pain point for marketers. Misspellings and bad penmanship usually create emails that are hard bounces waiting to happen.

Find out how a marketer for a car wash used computer-generated sales receipts and incentives to produce accurate addresses and grow their list by 71% while boosting weekend revenue. Includes 5 simple steps.

Unlike execs for large companies, William Lawrence, Chairman, Bubbles Car Wash, oversees his own email marketing for his five car washes in the Houston area. Two years ago, he saw the growth of his mailing list hit a plateau because of a problem beleaguering many marketers – offline forms riddled by misspellings or illegible handwriting.

Lawrence and his team collected email addresses when customers paid for car washes. Too many addresses were simply unusable.

“We not only couldn’t read their writing, but then we were paying someone to sit there for hours and attempt to decipher these chicken scratches and input them into the database,” Lawrence says. “We had to find a more efficient way to do it.”

Lawrence and his team considered eliminating the paper signup form altogether. But they worried that having staffers ask for email addresses to input directly into the point-of-sale computer would turn off patrons while still producing bad addresses.


Lawrence started capturing accurate addresses by combining sales receipts with a Web-based signup form. He and his team also tested a method for picking up additional email addresses at a Major League Baseball game to grow their list. Here are the 5 steps they took:

-> Step #1. Craft receipt and Web signup combination form

First, they tweaked their point-of-sale cash register software. When a sales rep inputted the name of the customer, it would immediately identify a person whose relevant demographical information had *not yet* been captured. The system then would print a sales receipt that incentivized the customer to go to a URL.

At the URL, customers were asked to provide the following info:

- first and last name
- email (with a confirmation slot to help ensure the address is correct)
- physical address
- phone number
- make, model, year and color of vehicle

The system would not print a receipt with the URL if the person had already filled out the form.

-> Step #2. Lure signups with a coupon

Past MarketingSherpa articles have shown that incentives drive offline email signups. So, Lawrence included a coupon offer that got people to take the receipt home, go online and fill out the form needed to redeem it. The incentive was a free premium car wash.

“And we instructed our store reps to verbally point out the offer on the receipt. The rep helped with questions about how the customer could go online and get [the coupon].”

-> Step #3. Follow up with email

Customers who filled out the form were sent an email with a coupon code for the car-wash package that had a value of $28.95. The email was one paragraph of copy with a link to a landing page that let them enter in the code and print the incentive.

-> Step #4. Augment list growth with MLB promotion

To augment the in-store effort, Lawrence and his team partnered with the local Major League Baseball franchise, the Houston Astros. A handful of “Bubbles Babes” were stationed around the stadium during a game to hand out 10,000 promos that bore the URL for the signup form.

The business card shaped promo had the URL and a couple of notes on how to get started on one side and the offer on the other side.

“On our system, we created the promotional event, which let them register for the offer, get an email with the offer, click on the link and then print the unique coupon code. Once the code was used, it was dead.”

> Step #5. Establish monthly specials

After gathering all the new addresses with the Web form, they started running monthly specials. The frequency of the specials was based on how often Lawrence says people wash their cars in Texas. “We didn’t want to email too often and burn out our list.”

The monthly emails bundled premium and express-wash offers for limited time periods - three-day weekends –to redeem the coupons.


Combining sales receipts and a Web form has grown their email list by 71.4%.

Most of the names came from the receipts, Lawrence says, although the MLB baseball game promotion supplemented the list – just as they planned. In particular, he specifically credits the instruction they gave their reps to explain the coupon incentive when handing out receipts.

“If we didn’t reinforce it at that point in the customer experience, we would have lost that sense of urgency. And, our list would have not grown as much.”

Most importantly, Lawrence explains, the store-originating addresses are drastically coming in more cleanly than ever. They do their emails in-house without the help of an ESP and, therefore, don’t have analytics for opens, CTRs and deliverability. However, Lawrence says that the proof for those stats is in the proverbial pudding.

“We are averaging $70,000 per weekend on our emails specials now. This is revenue that we weren’t getting two years ago. Our list members are obviously opening and clicking through.”

And here’s a key lesson learned for marketers who want to collect more email addresses at events: It was important that they didn’t collect addresses at the ballgame, he says; rather, they used the cards to provide an incentive for people to go online and submit them there.

An on-location coupon-for-an-email-address pitch would have resulted in a slew of badly written or even fraudulent addresses, Lawrence explains.

Useful links related to this article

Bubbles Car Wash Smart Email Capture System

Past Sherpa articles about list growth:

Overwhelmed by Opt-in Typos? 4 Ways to Fix Misspelled Email Addresses:

57% of Consumers Will Give Email Addresses to a Local Retailer -- How to Take Advantage of That Fact:

How to Collect More Email Names for Your List by Asking Brick-and-Mortar Customers for Them Offline:

Bubbles Car Wash:

Arial Software, Inc. – their marketing technology provider:

DRB Systems – the software company providing the POS technology behind the receipts:

See Also:

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