How You Can Save Your Inbox From Subscription Spam (and What It Means to Email Marketers)

Most of us view email as a necessary evil. You certainly need it to keep up with work, and there always seems to be those few holdouts in every family who refuse to join Facebook like the rest of the world. But it's so inconvenient in this era of instant communication, where nearly everyone you know in your personal and professional life is on social media or instant messagers.

And then, of course, there's the spam.

At least two-thirds of the average person's inbox is stuffed with spam. While most modern email clients have strong built-in protections to filter out the junk promising "ch34p \/1aGr4!!" or claiming to have discovered $19 million in some dead Nigerian prince's account, you cause plenty of problems for yourself whenever you give your email address out to any of the millions of websites we might potentially come across in our daily surfing.

You can't do much about the first problem beyond clicking report spam and hoping your email provider catches on. However, there's at least one brilliant new tool that can help you manage the hundreds of irritating or unwanted subscription emails -- provided you've got one (or more) of the roughly 1.5 billion Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, or AOL webmail accounts currently active around the world.

It's as easy as going to Unroll.Me, a free Web service that promises to finally give you control over all those emails you've signed up for over the years.

Source: Unroll.Me.

The process is simple and fairly straightforward -- simply click your way over to their site (this link opens Unroll.Me in a new window) and sign in to your webmail client of choice. Once you're in, you can manage every single email subscription you've picked up. You can unsubscribe with a click, and as an added feature, Unroll.Me also gives you the option to "rollup" your remaining subscriptions into one daily digest email. Instead of sifting through dozens of emails that might be important, you can skim a single email once a day.

This is great for the average email user, but probably not so much for most businesses, which have long sought to build huge lists of email subscribers to grow sales and maintain interest in their products and services. Unroll.Me knows just which businesses are most- and least-wanted in everyone's inbox, too, and it's put together the "Unroll.Me Awards" to put them on notice.

The emails nobody wants
Unroll.Me found that 15 particular subscriptions had at least 40% of all Unroll.Me users opting out of them. Two of them -- Runner's World and -- are aimed at fitness enthusiasts, and two -- Angie's List and -- aim to help users find qualified experts for various services. The rest are all sent by e-commerce sites. The four least-wanted email subscriptions are all unsubscribed from by at least 45% of Unroll.Me's users:

Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE  ) -- 45% unsubscribe rate
Everyone loves travel deals, but few people seem to want them from Expedia, which was the only travel-booking site to land on Unroll.Me's most-hated list. Widespread lack of interest in Expedia's offerings could certainly explain why the company has trailed far behind competitor Priceline in both revenue and earnings-per-share growth since the recession ended. Expedia's EPS has risen 13% over the past five years, trailing the 68% rise in its revenue. Priceline's progress dwarfs these figures -- the home of The Negotiator has grown its revenue threefold and its EPS nearly fourfold since the end of 2009.

TicketWeb -- 47.5% unsubscribe rate
People don't seem to care too much for TicketWeb's emails, which may have something to do with its focus on independent venues and musicians. The music industry has become incredibly stratified in recent years, with top acts drawing the lion's share of interest and spending -- the top 10 highest-grossing concert tours in North America last year accounted for 15% of all concert ticket sales tracked by Pollstar, and the top 100 highest-grossing tours took in more than half of all North American concert revenue. That would certainly put the squeeze on TicketWeb, since most people who buy tickets to see a lesser-known band probably aren't that interested in being told about 10 other indie acts they've never heard of every day.

Don't let these emails wilt in your inbox.
Source: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay. 

Pro Flowers (45.1% unsubscribe rate) and 1-800-Flowers (NASDAQ: FLWS  ) (52.5% unsubscribe rate)
Let's face it: Most people simply don't buy flowers all that often. You might send your mom a bouquet in May, and men may pick up a few roses to commemorate their wedding anniversaries, but beyond these special occasions there simply aren't many days when anyone actually wants to have flowers delivered. Reminding subscribers daily that there are fresh-cut daffodils in stock seems to do more harm than good for these two delivery services.

Everyone's favorite emails
There are a few commonalities among Unroll.Me's most popular rollups. People certainly enjoy getting deep discounts, since all four major deal sites (Google Offers, (NASDAQ: AMZN  )  Local Deals, Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN  ) , and LivingSocial) are added to the daily digest by at least 30% of those Unroll.Me users who have those subscriptions. The "learn to code" movement is also popular, as 40.5% of all rollups include emails sent from online coding-education platform Codeacademy.

However, you might be surprised to learn that the most popular rolled-up subscription doesn't offer deep discounts or career-enriching educational tools. More than 61% of Unroll.Me users with a subscription to Hulu emails look forward to hearing more about their favorite TV shows on a regular basis. That trounces all other rollups by at least 15%, as the second most-popular subscription (AmazonLocal) is only rolled up by 46% of its subscribers.

Businesses that want to keep people engaged with their emails should take two clear lessons from these statistics. If you can't be entertaining, and you can't offer awesome deals people can't find anywhere else, you'd better not bother your subscribers all the time -- especially if you're only offering something they might want once a year.

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Alex Planes

Alex Planes specializes in the deep analysis of tech, energy, and retail companies, with a particular focus on the ways new or proposed technologies can (and will) shape the future. He is also a dedicated student of financial and business history, often drawing on major events from the past to help readers better understand what's happening today and what might happen tomorrow.

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