Holiday season: get ready for crowded inboxes

This holiday season, Santa’s going to have a problem. Not because Rudolf is being silly or Comet is not a good team player, but inboxes of consumers are filling up to the limit these days. For instance recently Hotmail’s Product Manager Dan Lewis noted that no less than 15% to 20% of emails received by Hotmail users are social media notifications. As retailers are increasing the email frequency as well, especially during the holiday season, inboxes will be crowded. There are many other things received these days by email as well, compared to old times. A list:
– invoices and purchase confirmations
– welcome campaign messages from subscriptions
– tickets for events, movies, trips and more
– media like presentations, personal movies, pictures
– earlier noted social media notifications
– software update notifications
– (internal) event and agenda notifications from your own agenda, company or group
– spam (sorry, it’s still part of email sadly)
– ‘regular’ private email
There are some special categories here: the last one is the classic one: in the old days all you did is just send and receive email to and from the people you knew. If you only had a personal account and received more than 10 emails a week, it was a lot. Another special category is the second one: automated campaign messages, especially welcome messages from new subscriptions, have been growing more and more in recent years. This is possible due to the marketing automation tools available on many ESP platforms these days.
The last special one is the first one: there are experiments going on with ordering and paying within an email by and with selected companies. This means you’ll get an invoice on your electricity or insurance for exampleand can pay for it right away in the email: no logging in, no codes, just accord it and it’s paid.

A giant mailbox in Greenland. Better get ready for holiday season.

All the other categories have been subtly but steadily starting new streams of email into the inbox, costing more time and effort from the receiver to handle. The trouble is: the receiver doesn’t have any more time: the same time is shared between all those emails now, which means less time per email. Some webmail providers like GMail have been trying to solve the problem through providing Priority Inbox: but that’s more of a smart filter than an actual solution to the problem. Getting less email is the actual only solution to the problem, because the problem originates from receiving too much of it in the first place. The trouble is: how to achieve this?
A recent chat message from Peter Roebuck during an eMailradio broadcast noted the following:

allwebemail: I’ve started unsubscribing from newsletters and instead reading just those articles that are popular with my twitter peeps. It’s a great filter.

This is simply a choice by Peter: he chooses to receive (a certain portion of) his news and information through another channel. Just like the option for people to subscribe to RSS and read it in their Google Reader instead of going to websites and reading news and blog posts there. So here are some tips (definitely not a complete list) to survive the holiday season:
– Turn off all social media notifications (you’ll be on those channels all the time or at least once a day anyway, right? Either via mobile or other device)
– Choose your channel of choice on news/blog updates: be it RSS, Twitter, or yes, email: spread the input over multiple channels
– Move stuff like media to ‘the cloud’: have an intranet microblogging option like Yammer (in your company) or chat privately available to share media
– Have software updates just update, or not: good software tells you when an update is available
– Change the frequency at which you receive newsletters and sale offers from retailers
Of course, these are just some tips: there are dozens of things you can do yourself to tame the inbox and be ready for the holiday season. For marketers, the challenge will be to get your email campaigns right in terms of timing, content and way of delivering that content: that will be key for you to be succesful with your holiday email campaigns. Good luck!

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