Online Retailers are Cutting Spam, and Here's Why

For years, we've all been used to inboxes bursting at the seams with promotional email. But increasingly disgruntled recipients are starting to make their voices heard, and as a result online retailers are beginning to cut the amount of junk mail they send.

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the change of heart—which might currently be difficult for consumers to notice—could change our inboxes for good. According to the report, the amount of e-commerce spam sent out by the top 100 online retailers has shot up by 87 per cent since 2007, and some companies now manage to send out over 500 emails a year to each of their customers. But that's changing, reports the Wall Street Journal:

...there are signs of customer burnout. A study of its retail clients by email marketing firm Harte-Hanks found that since 2007, the rates at which recipients open retail emails and click on links have declined. In the first six months of 2007, consumers opened 19% of the retail emails they received and clicked through to the website 3.9% of the time. By the first half of 2011, those numbers shrank to 12.5% and 2.8%, respectively.

Some retailers are finding that sending fewer emails can pay off. Since cutting back its volume, Nicole Miller has seen the rate at which customers "unsubscribe"-or request to stop receiving emails-drop, and the percentage of recipients who open the emails has grown from 15% to 40%, according to Andrea Marron, director of digital strategy at the company. Meanwhile, the percentage of online sales that began with an email has grown to 17% from 10%.

Interestingly, unsubscribe rates have hardly changed since 2007, which means that on some level—even if we bitch and moan about them—we don't seem to mind being flooded with promos enough to actually do anything about them. [Wall Street Journal]