All Those Junk Emails Are No Accident!

 (image courtesy TLC)

My morning routine during November and December is pretty simple; wake up, throw on warm clothes, grapple the dog into his leash, start our walk, and use my iPhone to begin the mass deletion of every “ONE DAY SALE” email that’s hit overnight. I don’t even read most of the subject lines, I just skim and delete. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what all those retailers don’t want…and there’s more to their strategy than just gunking up our inboxes.

The Wall Street Journal has an utterly fascinating article on how email marketing works, and what retailers aim to accomplish when they send out one of those ubiquitous email blasts. In the end, it’s not nearly as a random as you would think.

There’s a whole science to those emails, and yet, further down in the article, the WSJ also reports that the actual purchase rate is somewhere around 1.5%. But this is still the best way to reach a large swath of consumers who (at some point) wanted to hear from the company.

I know that despite my nuke and walk strategy, I do keep my eyes peeled for anything useful in those emails. Sometimes I open them, though I rarely purchase anything unless it’s an amazing deal. Still, those emails succeed at keeping the companies bombarding me on my radar, and junk email is waste of my time, but not resources — it’s not like a physical recycling bin get filled!

It does make me wonder if there’s a better way. Sending out tons of emails to get a small return and the hope that someone remembers a brand name later seems inefficient. Plus, too many of those emails runs the risk that the strategy backfires. There are definitely a handful of companies on my “never shopping here again” list because they bombard me with emails and yet make it nearly impossible to unsubscribe (Gilt, for one — I’ve just started marking them as spam because my unsubscribe attempts have failed). The difficulties of unsubscribing is something Mike wrote about here. Whether it’s through social media, better crafted emails, or some other fashion, something’s got to give…because I can’t imagine most consumers keeping even a 1.5% conversion rate alive at the rate we are all drowning in email!

Have you noticed an uptick in email marketing the last few months? Do the various offers work on you? Let us know in the comments!


Categories: Gear Bits


5 replies

  1. *Definitely* there’s been an increase–just like the increase in catalogs that is overloading my mailbox every day. I’ve been trying Michael A’s method of “unsubscribing” to as many lists as I can–I am appalled at how many I seem to be subscribed to, probably through the obnoxious “opt out” method some commercial sites have–but there hasn’t been that big a drop-off, honestly. Bleh.

  2. That’s pretty much my same early morning routing save for the dog, the leash and getting out of bed before the deletion process begins. :)

  3. Yes, I have noticed many more emails as well. The ones that I don’t need or want to see I continuously mark as spam, hoping that the filters will pick them up faster than way. Unsubscribing never seems to do much anyway, so I personally feel it’s more effective to teach the spam filter what I want to see and what I don’t than trying to get companies to stop sending them.

  4. I will finish writing up my full Unsubscribe experience after the New Year, but suffice to say that some people really don’t care if you don’t want emails from them, others operate in ‘campaigns’ so that they are honest when they say ‘allow up to 10 days to unsubscribe’ and still others are instant. This morning I had *ONE* unread email in my Hotmail (and 3 in spam) – and it was from DailySteals, something I choose to get. Two months ago I would have had more than 15, not counting the 25 or so in spam.


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