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Retailers Stuffing Inboxes Before Stockings

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If shoppers thought the “12 Days of Christmas, Itemized” was an example of true love or consumerism gone wild, they may want to check their inboxes.

Stores have ramped up email blasts to their most loyal customers this year to the point some may regret giving their addresses over freely and willingly, says retail analyst Jeff Green. During the month of December, retailers will send each of their subscribers 21 emails, up 15% on last year, according to a new survey. That translates into millions of email blasts, Green adds. And that doesn’t include the countless email spams customers receive every day from lesser known retailers.

While Amazon.com well positioned to make suggestions based on previous purchases, “promotional” emails from brick-and-mortar stores sometimes are less specific. As an example, I received these emails from Best Buy in the last week alone: “Don’t miss out with Deals of the Week + free shipping on everything (Dec. 5).”And: “Great selection of hot gifts at unbeatable prices; free shipping on everything (Dec. 4).” Plus, “Shop gifts under $100 + free shipping (Dec. 2).” (To be fair, Best Buy also gives an “unsubscribe” button in its emails. The store did not respond to request for comment.)

What’s more, the total number of emails that shoppers received for the year hit an all-time high this year, according to the new survey of 100 major retailers by Responsys, a California-based marketing company. Those expecting just occasional should know 87% of major retailers sent at least one promotional email to their subscribers on Cyber Monday – a 77% on last year, while 81% sent their customers an email on Black Friday – up 69%.

There are ways to cut down on spamming. Consumers can always give a secondary Gmail, AOL or Hotmail account that can be deleted if the store shares emails or if there’s a breach of cyber security, experts say. That’s the best option not to miss out on deals, experts say, as the email traffic from retailers to customers will increase again in 2012, says Green. “The amount of emails and texts received by retailers are overwhelming now,” he says. “Imagine what it is going to be like several years from now. This will drive the consumer nuts.”

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    • It doesn’t take long to figure out which retailers are essentially emailing billboards to you with the message: come buy here. Those get tagged as SPAM. The ones who send a message which actually offers a deal on something I am interested in get into my inbox (and earn my money). I understand the appeal of a delivery medium considered “free” but when credibility is gone and the message is disregarded, “free” is no bargain.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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