Monday, November 14, 2011

The Issue with Offers




I have never before considered the possibility of providing screenshots of my personal email on my blog; I am now, unfortunately, able to do so. While this is just a sampler of my inbox, it is a reasonably fair representation of what I'd refer to as "Offer Overload". I am, of course, using the word "Offer" loosely, but you will see that both my personal accounts are, in disturbing manner, filled with offers - explicit - from "offer"/"deal" services, like LivingSocial and Google - and implicit - from services that I use or have used in the past. Sadly, also from sources I have no knowledge of ever having interacted with (spam). I don't remember signing up for LivingSocial, but there we are!

This is an issue with the offers model, or at least the model as it stands today, where a daily deal is sent (pushed) to someone's email. Coming at a time when Groupon just went public (issued at a premium, I might add), it is ironic that Amazon just figured that "Deal Fatigue" may be desensitizing users who get too many email offers, and may actually hurt customer relationships. Amazon recently started unsubscribing certain users from receiving offer emails.

Amazon has said that many of its customers had shown significant inactivity in using the daily deals e-mailers and thus, their un-subscription was justified. Amazon seemed concerned about its consumer relationships that span across more than a decade and thus, not bothering its users with unwanted emails was also hinted as a reason.

This does not mean that offers are not attractive, or not useful. Groupon is, in fact, amp'ing it up with Epic Deals this holiday season (what's more Epic than 90% off? (free?)). There's a human penchant for a good deal - something visceral that makes a deal too good to pass up, and therefore a deal to consummate. It is much like the addiction of going back to a social network and seeing "likes", "pluses" or comments on your post, despite knowing that  the visit  is likely unimportant, and will waste valuable time :-)

You'll notice an important change that happened with Facebook - we no longer receive emails when there's activity on our streams. Once there's an important and sticky engagement channel with the user, there's no need for a "reminder" channel, like email, which was really built for a different use. Facebook has earned daily engagement. I still get reminder activity emails from LinkedIn, which goes to show that LinkedIn has not been successful with sticky, daily engagement. LinkedIn is a successful networking tool when professional networking is required - it is an on-demand network, not a social network, as I see it.

The current offers model seems artificial - an "out-of-band" model - and will continue to be so, until it becomes integrated with a stickier model that filters out the irrelevant offers and shows me the right ones at the right time. Instead of impinging on my email-box,  it needs to be integrated at the point of intent, i.e., search, or within, say, my daily social network interactions, or when I watch TV. The "daily dose" services - Facebook, Google - can do this.   Maybe Amazon, if they can take over my regular online music/media needs, or even Yahoo! (did I just say that?) since it is still a destination site for millions!  LivingSocial and Groupon on their own (without sticky channels)??

Offers will eventually have to be made at a destination site/daily "portal" application, e.g., iTunes/Pandora, Flipboard, etc.,. Note that there's also a big difference between the Y! Mail splash page and the actual email stream. An offer needs to be like a relevant targeted ad.

I have already started ignoring all "offers" in my e-mailbox, despite the fact that some of them are great offers. Offer overload is resulting in Offer offload!

The question is, will I ever succeed in cleaning up my email stream from invasive offers?

Or is it time to wean myself off email?
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