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E-Mail Marketing Wave Is Cresting For Holiday Shopping Season

(File photo. Credit: Getty Images)

(File photo. Credit: Getty Images)

Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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by Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We’re more popular at this time of year than at any other — with e-mail marketers, at least.

But despite the deluge of e-mail solicitations this Christmas season, not many of us are clicking “unsubscribe.”  And that’s welcome news for retailers, who are dealing with emerging problems with this kind of consumer outreach.

If you use a smartphone or tablet to plow through your inbox, you’re in good company: nearly 60 percent of people are managing mail on a mobile device over this holiday, according to the e-mail research firm Return Path.

Tom Sather, senior director of research at the New York City-based company, says there hasn’t been a major shift in the amount of e-mail people are actually reading.

“There are mixed results,” he says.  “Retail saw a two-percent decline.  For auction sites like eBay, we are seeing nearly a double-digit increase in the amount of e-mails being read.  Daily deal sites, like Groupon and Living Social, are pretty much flat.”

One reason fewer eyes are seeing retail messages could be Gmail’s tabbed inbox feature.   The world’s most popular service implemented the change this year, in which promotional messages are now bumped from the inbox to their own category.

That’s left retailers scrambling for ways to get their e-mails back on your front page.

Why do some categories see more success than others?  For auction sites, Sather believes timeliness and attentiveness play a role: you’re more likely to take note of e-mails on items you’ve selected to monitor or are actively bidding on.

“For retailers, they may be sending out the same campaign or same offer over multiple days,” Sather explains.  “So I think consumers may have multiple chances to read those messages, and may not read it again if it’s sent on another day.  On mobile devices, they may just be catching the subject line — which may have enough information to act on — and then just deleting it.  So that may be why we’re seeing those mixed results.”

But, he says, it seems that the prospect of scoring a good deal generally outweighs any annoyance factor from the daily deluge of come-ons.

“I haven’t seen any evidence to show that people are experiencing any inbox or subscriber fatigue.  In fact, we’re still seeing people opening and subscribing to even more messages.”

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