data driven global ecommerce identity verification

How Phone and Email Data is used in Transactions Around the World



Regardless of where you are in the world, Ekata can help verify your identity, determine whether or not a transaction is high risk or low risk, and give the data needed to appropriately respond to each transaction. This is the reason we are in such a unique position to speak from a global perspective on transaction volumes.

Why Phone and Email Differ in Value

When you look at the value of phone data versus email data, the way we assess them is very different. Because emails are easily created, they are a great data point to identify fraudulent behavior. On the flipside, an email address that was created several years ago can usually be traced back to a real user.

Phone numbers, meanwhile, are powerful as graph signals of a true identity – acquiring one is likely to establish a link between an identity and an attribute. Ideally, the best-case scenario would be that a query contains a phone number and an email. This is the gold standard.

Before we discuss anything from a global perspective, it’s important to understand how differing regions interact with data attributes such as phone and email. First, let’s begin with Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia Email and Phone Usage

Southeast Asia Optimal Attribute Mix for Queries

This graph is a snapshot of the past 12+ months of Southeast Asia’s Optimal Attribute Mix. See the percentage of email usage? In no other region in the world would you have such a low percentage of email data. The reason for this is that the digital economy in Southeast Asia has developed later than other areas. While in the U.S. and the E.U. every man and his dog had an email address early on in the game (some may still remember their Hotmail address and cringe), the focus in Asia has always been on mobile phone numbers.

There is a widely-held belief that acquiring email data in Southeast Asia isn’t worth the effort. In fact, many companies choose not to source email at all because it’s not expected to be provided. But this is where Ekata builds and uses our database a little differently. As Noelle Wiggins, Ekata’s Data Acquisitions Manager explains, there is great overlap between phone and email data, as seen below:

overlap between phone and email data

“This is a significant period where we have a significant portion of queries coming through with both phone and email. Ekata has put such emphasis on and such effort into sourcing for email (in this region). This increases our ability to validate a transaction.”

While acknowledging that a dip in email data follows in early 2020, a return to status-quo if you will, it’s still important to appreciate how critical email still is in Southeast Asia.

North America and Europe Email and Phone Usage

In contrast to the Southeast Asia data above, let’s look at the same graph, but for European and Northern American transactions.

North America and Europe Phone and Email Queries

What’s immediately fascinating about this data is that, despite the fact that email penetration in Southeast Asia is traditionally low, over the same period, they have actually done a much better job at including email as a data asset over a longer period than Europe and North America.

Let’s focus on March 2020 now. You will see that queries including phone data is stable, hovering at 90%, while email usage has become less prevalent. Let’s dig in here.

Phone Use in 2020

It is unsurprising to learn just how significant the increase in mobile device usage has been this year, especially while we have all been in lockdown. In fact, as the scale of the pandemic became clear, and social distancing became trendy, consumers at home have been exploring new ways to leverage their mobile; from online shopping to managing their finances, to fitness apps, to binging entertainment and games. As the world hunkered down, weekly time spent in apps grew an average of 20% from this time last year.

It is interesting to note the increase in a whole share of products through smartphones actually increased by 10% in May compared with January, pre-COVID19. Those who had never shopped online before this pandemic have suddenly joined the digital economy for the first time, and have done so via their smartphones.

As Wiggins explains further, in regards to future transactions,

“This means that consumers are likely to be choosing accounts with their phone number as a primary identifying attribute. (Therefore,) when they send us queries that phone number will likely be included. This is actually a good thing, given the authoritative link a phone number has (to an identity).”

Now what?

The real takeaway here, especially given the decrease in email usage and the stabilization of phone number attributes in North America and Europe, is that we have to work that much harder to validate phone numbers in order to properly identify fraud and risk signals in transactions. This is no easy task. Especially when the General Data Protection Regulation is a regulation in EU law. This can make it near impossible for some companies to get the information they need on their own to verify a consumer.

Allow us to shamelessly plug ourselves. This is where Ekata stands out. We know how to pull together authoritative information in a way that is both safe and compliant. Here are the four major components to verifying a phone number and assessing the riskiness of a transaction:

  1. Check the validity of the number
  2. Identify VOIP and non-VOIP, prepaid and postpaid numbers
  3. Match transacting name with the phone owner and other attributes
  4. Observe phone behavior relative to other data attributes over time

Ekata goes a step further. We know when a phone number is behaving weirdly. We catch patterns that are indicative of fraud. We have the engineering power and the vetted, licensed data sets that allow you to match attributes anywhere in the world over time.

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