Online retailers are sending huge volumes of emails in the lead up to Christmas. Profit over user experience

When retailers choose to send massive volumes of emails to their database in the lead up to Christmas, often they’re putting profit ahead of the user and brand experience.


Now I’m sure there is a method in the madness – but I am getting very sick of seeing daily emails from online retailers, pushing their products in the lead up to Christmas. There is usually a business reason for everything that is done, so I can only assume that these particular retailers are seeing increased profits from their email bombardment, but I can hazard a guess that for every sale they get they are also equally alienating another (potentially) long-term customer.


While I am not a fan of email bombardment just for the sake of it (I think it has its place when there are legitimate information updates, such as in a breaking news capacity or when time is of the essence – which I’m sure these online retailers feel that time is definitely of the essence with only 6 trading days left before Christmas and even less for those products which require delivery, for which time has probably already run out), the thing that is annoying me most about these two online retailers featured in the screenshot of my Gmail Trash inbox, is that I have not clicked, in fact I have not even opened these specific emails in the last 5 days. I have deleted the emails without opening or reading, and yet I am still receiving daily emails (sometimes twice daily emails).


Online retailers who want to retain their customers beyond Christmas need to consider how their actions affect the customer’s online user experience and how this is clearly creating a poor brand experience (for some). For the two retailers featured, they are both market leaders in their respective country/ industry, so perhaps it is arrogance that spurs them on, because they are confident that customers will come back to them, eventually, out of necessity.


But that doesn’t change the fact that they are obviously not closely monitoring their database analytics. If these were my clients at this time of year, I would be advising them to segment their email database by customer behaviour and only send these daily emails (and especially the second email send of the day) to customers who are, at the very least, still opening their emails and of course those who are clicking on them. As you can see, I have not opened these emails, as they’re still unread in my trash folder, but I also have not unsubscribed (because I am in fact a fan of both of these brands and do expect to support them in the future, but I am frustrated by their lack of attention to my obvious signals of disinterest in their current email strategy). So I would definitely expect to still receive normal weekly email updates, as was my usual behaviour, but this daily and sometimes twice daily bombardment is almost too much to bare. This has been going on since at least the 13th of December (as far back as I can see in my Gmail trash folder) – today is the 19th – so there has now been 6 consecutive days of my NOT opening or clicking an email. This is plenty of time to see a clear trend, and I’m sure I am not alone in this perception.Online retailers put profit over user experience at Christmas


Obviously neither online retailer has bothered to assess their database responses and eliminate customers who are not opening or responding from these constant emails – I’d be very curious to know if their databases are decreasing at a faster rate than they are growing at this time of year? Regardless of the sales and profit they may be making from last minute online Christmas shoppers, they are missing the point in that their long-term revenue may be reduced by the churn of customers whose lifetime customer value has just been cut short. As a disgruntled customer who unsubscribes due to this email bombardment, they may have spent a further $500+ in 2013 that is now lost revenue. I wonder if these online retailers will be doing any post-analysis of their unsubscribers and the potential lost revenue and if it will compare with the inreased revenue they enjoyed in these last 7 days?


I would have thought experienced online retailers such as these would have advanced eCommerce website platforms with systems and triggers in place to capture and convert abandoned shopping carts and lapsed sales, which would be far more cost effective and successful at converting customers to sales at Christmas, than this tactic of mass email bombardment. I know Amazon has this feature in place. Perhaps this trigger based email re-activation strategy is in place and the blanket email marketing is simply an additional tactic overlaid on top of existing marketing strategies at this time of year. Perhaps they’ve done it every year at Christmas and it’s not bothered me in the past. Or perhaps the year on year results prove that it doesn’t affect long term customer retention. But if that is the case and the data adds up, it still irks me that profit is so much more important than ensuring their supposedly “valued customers” have a positive online user and brand experience.


Anyway, perhaps they have done all of the above suggested analysis and the Christmas boom is just far too lucrative to be concerned with the customers who complain of a poor brand experience and unsubscribe from their databases as their only form of protest. But in my experience, very few businesses take the time to work out what the lifetime value of their customers are and also what the cost of acquiring a new subscriber is and converting them to a customer. Of course there is natural attrition in any business customer database, but retention is usually a far more cost effective marketing strategy than having to constantly acquire new subscribers and spend the time up-selling them so as to convert them to a customer, let alone a repeat customer.


Please comment if you’re frustrated by the Christmas email bombardment you may be receiving from online retailers this Christmas.