Three top tips for validating mobile numbers effectively

The popularity of SMS marketing is expanding year-on-year at 148% in the UK which means, for marketers, having an accurate view of your customer mobile numbers is becoming increasingly important to maximise deliverability and response rates. Consumers receive one SMS for every seven emails, which produces engagement rates six to eight times higher than email marketing1.

As more organisations than ever are going digital we’re seeing SMS playing an even more critical role in the wider customer journey with everything from appointment reminders to parcel delivery updates being sent direct to mobile phones. At Experian Data Quality we’re seeing that trend first hand as demand for mobile validation increases across the board from both large and small businesses in sectors as varied as Public Sector to Banking and Retail.

Any organisation sending SMS communications should consider validating mobile phone numbers to have true confidence that the data it holds is correct and that communications will actually reach customers – after all it is very easy to mistype a mobile number. Many of us are familiar with address and email validation but perhaps not mobile so here’s three top tips for maintaining accuracy:

1. Validate your existing records

As a first step I’d recommend validating the existing mobile numbers that you already hold on a regular basis, particularly before a major event such as a marketing campaign.

Mobile number validation works by matching the given number to a file known as the Home Location Register (HLR). This holds details about every device that can connect to the mobile network, and is maintained across all networks globally. If a supplied number either does not exist in the HLR, or has a status indicating the number is not active, an invalid result is returned.

As part of this process extra information about that number can be appended. A good example of this is Housing Associations, who can use mobile validation to find the country a mobile phone is registered to, and where it is currently based. This can help to identify potential cases of housing benefit fraud.

2. Correct numbers at the point of capture

Human error is inevitable whether that’s in a call centre where it’s difficult to hear specific digits, or customers making a typing error directly into a form on your website. This means that if you don’t validate as you take new numbers you can’t guarantee that they’re accurate.

Using real-time validation software enables you to understand instantly whether a supplied mobile number is valid and active as it is entered, allowing you to go back and correct it, especially in a call centre scenario whilst the caller is engaged. Used this way, validation will improve the user experience, as a correct number can be taken down quickly and efficiently.

3. Apply validation consistently across all channels 

It’s wise to also consider the channels through which you collect mobile data, where it’s held and who uses it.

Increasingly data is collected through multiple channels such as the website, call centres, and directly into a CRM by sales teams. If validation isn’t in place at every touch point, you will still end up with invalid mobile numbers. Identifying each touch point will ensure that ALL data is captured with the highest possible validity.

Realise the business benefit

Your mobile data is only a valuable asset if it’s correct and up-to-date. Poor data quality can cost your business time and money, especially when you consider the potential of SMS.

Text messages are read on average within five seconds of being received1, meaning there isn’t a quicker way to reach your prospective clients and the average person checks their smartphone 150 times per day1. Without a valid number, your message will not be received and a prospective customer could be lost. Likewise if SMS messages that contain important reminders or updates aren’t delivered, it could pose considerable risk to your reputation.

High mobile data accuracy also helps maintain your brand’s image, especially if you also capture a customer’s channel preference. This fosters the perception that your brand understands each customer and respects how they prefer to receive messages.

If you routinely capture or market to mobile numbers as part of a multichannel strategy, then it makes sense to consider the wider picture. Validating all your customer data, not just addresses and emails will allow you take advantage of the growth in mobile and the opportunities that presents.

1. 10 SMS Marketing Statistics 2013 –