Commerce is killing the inbox

Smith-Harmon has released a study of American retail email trends for last year. Unsurprisingly, 2009 saw record volumes distributed.

It states that the 100 largest retailers sent an average of 132 promotional emails to each of their subscribers. That’s an average of 11 emails a month and 2.5 per week, per subscriber (peaking at 15.4 in December). Overall, top online retailers sent 12% more promotional emails in 2009 than they did the year before—and 39% more than during 2007.

You’ve got to wonder if we’re going to kill the golden goose here. The overwhelming number of emails threatens to neuter your subscribers’ inbox. I’d argue consumers are becoming numb to special offers and super savings.

This is about perfecting frequency, not necessarily content. It’s a nexus that lies between maximum engagement (revenue in most cases) and maximum disengagement (unsubscribers). Think about consumers’ distain for physical junk mail promotional mail shots. It’s not too much of a leap to imagine that feeling about your inbox –  even if you did volunteer your address.

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