A Personal Rant About Email SPAM

This post will be different from my usual, as it will be sort of a rant. I will try to be as direct and plainspoken as possible. I think tech blogs are missing this kind of short, informal voice, and I’m part of the problem — so here goes. In a nutshell, the world of consumer and mobile apps have a problem: Too much email SPAM.

I don’t have data to prove it, but I trust my gut here. The email SPAM is out of control. Readers of this blog and tech early adopters may have grown accustom to it by virtue of the excitement of trying new apps and services, sort of like how cities grow accustom to smog accumulation. After a while and all the cloudy, hazy weather, it’s hard to remember what sunshine looked like.

There are a few major faux pas here:

  1. One, there are too many notification types. A few types of notification triggers makes sense. They can be useful. But it seems like over 10 and definitely over 20 is just ridiculous.
  2. Two, there are too many startups that automatically opt-in new users to receive every single notification. I don’t need to explain why this is wrong.
  3. And three, fundamentally, this is all driven by a culture of over-exploiting email itself, which has proven to be one of the most effective, durable conversion channels despite all the noise around social media and new online networks. Hacking growth leads many to email, chasing a dashboard of conversions, oftentimes with little thought given to the quality of the user.

I believe this is an early cancer slowly spreading across the the consumer web and new mobile apps. Automatically opting-in people who sign up for your service or app isn’t a good move, and the real risk is that this ruins it for everyone else trying to build services that tastefully use email and notifications. I believe excessive notification types signals an overly complex product that’s probably ahead of its own adoption. I believe auto-opt-in emails may provide more cover for marketing quants, but ultimately it ends up inorganically chasing uninterested, bad users who provide metrics-related value in the short-term and engagement drop-off thereafter.

OK, I’ve made my point. Thank you. I do realize that normal users may enjoy getting lots of emails and be distracted by them, as I’ve seen it work. But, most of those targets aren’t good users. Just please either stop Spamming people and/or spend an entire day and revisit your email architecture and settings. Your industry may depend on it.

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