Your email spam filter has a very important message for you…

(This article was originally published on the Ecommerce Jungle Gym blog)

Your administrative unsung hero has silently shielded you from the truth for too long.

It’s time you learnt a valuable lesson.

Your email spam filter is working under the most horrific workplace conditions.

For 24 hours, 7 days a week.

And this poor, unsuspecting talisman of online strength has to endure a relentless barrage of promotional email marketing abuse, just to save you a few precious minutes of your day.

If you’re an ecommerce marketing professional with access to a list of email addresses — it’s people like you that need to spare a thought for a long-oppressed friend you couldn’t do without.

Today, it’s time for a lesson in email marketing empathy. I want to take you behind the scenes of your email inbox spam filter, to show you exactly what this trusty foot-soldier has to contend with. (Hint — after you hear from your old friend Spam Filter, you’ll think twice before sending another generic ecommerce promotional email.)

A day-in-the-life of your humble email spam filter

1am — 4am

I start my day dealing with all those overseas email you get.

You have no idea how many torturous early morning emails I have to endure.

While you’re busy getting your deepest zeds, I’m punching overtime sifting through Viagra promo’s, North African pyramid schemes, and unsolicited conference invites (which seem like they’re free but really cost $3,999 once you click through your ‘personalised link’).

I can’t wait for the day that I can sleep.

Surely there’ll come a time when anyone sending an email will take the time to work out the country where the recipient lives — and send the email sometime after 7am and before midnight.

It cannot be that hard.

We put a man on the moon fifty years ago. You can send a text message from your wristwatch. There must be a way to make sure you send your contacts an email at a reasonable hour.

4:17am

Another outrageous email from Lawrence.

The clown thinks he can convince us he’s working at four in the morning, so he sends through some banal reply to your questions about the edits to that document.

I can tell he’s automated the send time. He’s probably waking up his wife with an episode of violent snoring right now.

Of course, I’ve gotta let this one through.

It’ll save you that excruciating conversation when you run into him in the corridor tomorrow:

“You get those markups I sent through last night?”
“Nope, don’t think so Lawrence. When did you send it? I’ve been in meetings this morning.”
“Oh, I actually sent it late. Sometime past 12. Burning the midnight oil last night — you know how it is.”
“Oh geez. I’ll check my spam — might’ve slipped in there.”

No — we can’t have that.

Makes Lawrence look like a genius, and you look like an incompetent bludger.

I’ll have it waiting for you first thing.

5: 51am

Looks like that boots brand you like has 30% off — for subscribers only.

Seems like I get one of these every other week. Are they ever not having a sale?

I wonder, do they ever convince anyone to buy anything at full price?

Still, at least they seem like they’re trying to help you out — better than those other fashion brands shovelling an email down my throat every time they launch a new season product.

Are people really convinced to open an email based on a brand’s irresistable announcment for a new Autumn season range of socks?

Supposedly a ‘must-have for any self-respecting shopper’s wardrobe’.

However will you do without?

Sometimes I think the only things you people care about are discounts and new products.

I know, I know. That’s why I have a job — because so many companies send you stuff you don’t want to see.

But come on — why do they all think you’re so stupid?

Technology has progressed.

Why couldn’t these brands work out what you do want to open and read? They spend so much time creating these fancy email masterpieces with the most glorious, glossy images filled with glamorous models — and half the time I don’t even give you the chance to delete them…

6:44am

Ooooh, finally something juicy. The adult store you bought those Valentine’s gifts from — they’re having a sale.

Better keep this one to ourselves, right?

Don’t want this one popping up with the office manager lurking around your cubicle. I’ll hold onto it. You can hit me up later tonight to have a look.

(Wait — since when did you have a date to buy a Valentine’s gift for? That was wishful thinking. By the looks of that Tinder account confirmation email a few weeks back, things didn’t go so crash hot. You’ll get there. Keep at it.)

7:11am

Some SEO company you’ve never heard of before is asking you “if you’ve got a minute to chat?”

Firstly, if you have any free time in your workday to chat — I’m not sure you’d want to spend it chatting with some anonymous, accented salesman named Brad. You need to dedicate those precious minutes to sharing some witty banter with C.J. from Sales.

Secondly — “I hope this mail finds you smiling!”

Do I look like a letter box? It’s called email champ.

And don’t make me feel guilty about not smiling while I check them.

Good old Brad either has some fundamental language problems, or a paltry attention to detail.

(Also, I’m increasingly feeling like the only time an exclamation mark is necessary in an email is in precursor to a hilarious GIF you’re sending to a friend.)

I’m starting to form a rule. Anything with a three letter acronym warrants close attention. SEO, PPC, CRO, SEM…

11.13am

Another webinar invite.

You know how I know that?

They type [Webinar] in the subject line, like I’m some kind of moron.

It’s not my first rodeo CisWebExMeetGo sales guy.

Darren, or Tim, or whatever name your automated mailout uses to sound like it’s a real person, is cordially inviting you to an intimate online meeting of the minds.

I’m not sure this bunch really care about you and your learning needs.

I’m very sure you don’t want this clogging up your inbox.

I already let three of these signup reminders through, and you didn’t even open them.

I’ve had enough of their badgering. Straight to the blacklist. You’ll have to manually approve this address to let me know you want it back. We both know you’ll never be bothered with that.

[Sidebar — It’s soooo hard to separate your god damn webinar invites. Do you have any advice to help me work out which ones you genuinely signed up for amongst the tidal wave of Webco/OnStream/MoreThanMeeting/GoTo-Town ‘special online events’ that you should sign up for right now exclamation point? These webinar people are relentless.]

Oh, and notice how these clever brands decide to add their brazen [Webinar] label to the email preview text. All I read from that is ‘Please don’t mark me as spam right away — at least click through and open me before discarding this email for good’.

That’s kinda like the Amway shiester who comes to your door and tries to tell you he’s not about to sell you anything.

If it looks like spam, if it smells like spam, and if it comes in the same canned package as every other chunk of sinister-smelling spam — it’s almost definitely destined to be squashed straight into the trash folder.

1.05 pm

No thank you, Purple Rhino, I do not need extra stamina and agility to unleash my inner alpha…

1.08pm

Okay, I have something you want to see right here. This one has made my day.

Remember when you ordered that Laksa in last week? Yeah, I got the confirmation email through at this exact time last Tuesday. These guys have sent you through a heads up to see if you want to re-order, and they want to throw in some prawn dumplings for you as well.

How did they know about the dumpling addiction? And you’re hungry right?

An email from an online retailer containing some genuine helpfulness. What an unexpected delight!

I’ll send it straight through. Looks like you’re about two clicks away from deliciousness.

I wish everyone understood you so intimately (just be sure to disregard that ‘dinner for two promotion’ — I don’t want you to get any lonelier).

1.11 pm

CAN EVERYONE JUST PLEASE STOP USING ALL CAPS BECAUSE I HAVE A NEVER-ENDING HEADACHE.

Quick heads up — anything with all-caps is out.

I just…

I can’t even.

4:17pm

Now, these are the kind of moments I’m here for.

Of course you want to “Chat_With_Over_2000_Ukranian_And_Russian_Beauties”.

But I’ve been around the block. You’re lucky you have me here keeping guard over your vulnerable naïveté, else you’d have a number of unexplainable viruses to discuss with IT tomorrow.

And what if C.J. from Sales happened to wander on by your desk just as you were opening this titilating little excitement package? I’ll tell you. Thousands of unstoppable X-rated popups flood your screen, embarrassing you in front of the entire office (ruining whatever chances you had left to somehow conjur a first date).

Another tip for future reference. If you’re sending a half-respectable email with some sort of intention to get it through to your intended recipient — don’t use underscores or flashing emoticons. This is suspicious email behaviour. You’re just asking for someone like me to inspect.

It’ll have to be an exceptionally clever email to get through with one of these red flags waving. Don’t take the chance.

6:30pm

Unless things have changed drastically in the last few days, I’m quite certain you don’t own an infant.

So why on earth would you care about a coupon code for 15% off all regular priced baby items?

The only thing I can think of is that one time you bought those booties for your niece a few months back.

But that was just one time.

Surely these people understand some online shoppers are buying gifts for babies. Is it really that difficult to double-check someone’s parenting status when they make a purchase? A quick tick-box would avoid all of this unsolicited inbox abuse.

I’m having a quick scan through for you. Finding the unsubscribe link amidst a virtual labyrinth of fluoro buttons and giant baby pictures is proving difficult. It’s like trying to find a brand that actually cares about us.

If you ever do decide to parent a child — you’ll be 100% sure not to buy anything from this crew, after the months of harrowing promotional barrages we’ve endured at their cold, sales-hungry hands.

9:10pm

Okay — so I’m really getting fed up with all this Pokémon Go caper.

If one more brand jumps on this bandwagon it’s bound to smash into smithereens.

You wouldn’t know a Pikachu from a Minion. Why does everyone think you’ll be interested in some harebrained Poké-discount? Is it because you’re single?

Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.

Maybe we’ll find some helpful emails from people who don’t just treat us like a digital wallet waiting to be plundered.

10.33pm

Ahhh, like clockwork. Same time every Tuesday.

The weekly fly-away “exclusive 24 hour flash sale” you can’t afford to miss. That old chestnut.

It’s the same 10 destinations from the same five cities at the exact same price, each and every week.

Kinda defeats the purpose of a super-urgent 24 hour flash sale I would have thought. Just wait for next week’s amazing, change-your-life deal.

They can’t even work out the city you live in to personalise the email (and a reasonable time to send it!).

This one really irritates me. The email could be so much better.

Everyone loves to travel, and holiday stories are more than enough to seduce you into wasting 15 minutes of your afternoon procrastinating at work.

If only these emails linked off to a ’72 hours in Buenos Aires’ feature from a decent travel writer. Or maybe a roundup of the best tips to avoid jetlag from famous celebrities or sports stars. Even better, just include ten of the best photos taken by customers on holiday in the last seven days. You wouldn’t just be more likely to open that email — you’d get excited to read it each week.

Instead, I’m going to hold this one up for you.

If you didn’t want a $299 flight to Bangkok for the last 37 weeks, I’m not sure this email is about to twist your arm.

(Maybe in 37 more weeks you’ll have a lovely partner to spoil with a surprise romantic getaway. I’ll believe it when I see it.)

10:41pm

Some people don’t even try.

Subject Line: Are you the right person?

No.

Spam.

If they don’t know you well enough to answer this question, they don’t deserve your precious, precious inbox real estate.

11:02pm

Well, what do we have here?

Looks like someone’s been doing some online window shopping.

I didn’t know you needed a new $450 trenchcoat. I reckon our old friend Bank Account app wouldn’t be too pleased with this. (Don’t worry, secret’s safe with me.)

I’m impressed though. You’ve obviously resisted the impulse to splash out, but these folks are straight onto it.

And it’s not just another one of those tap-on-the-shoulder emails you tend to get when you ‘abandon your shopping cart’. There’s also a couple of other personally reccommended suggestions to help you prepare for the colder weather — already sorted into your size. They’ve even included a link to some sort of helpful ‘Winter Style Guide’ with a whole stack of information about styling combos.

You should really read it. These guys clearly know what they’re talking about. And they’re not just trying to flog off their stuff at a discount. At last — some class and sophistication.

Maybe you should sort out that new wardrobe. You might finally find a date (and I might finally get to see some interesting emails).

11:44pm

A personal email!

At this hour!

You devil!

I can’t believe it. You’ve found some game.

Subject Line:
Thank you so much for yesterday — I’ve got some pics for you…”

How salacious.

And an image attachment! Juicy…

Ah, but of course.

Email Body:
Hey, it’s Lawrence.
Burning the midnight oil again! You know how it is.
Just want you to look over these flow charts for me. See attached.

I knew it was too good to be true.

Maybe I’ll trawl back through the archives for that Match.com email I kept from you last month…

The original version of this article was published on the Ecommerce Jungle Gym blog. If you work in ecommerce, or you just want to learn more about online retail — you need to subscribe for a weekly package of ecommerce marketing learning to receive stories like this one delivered free to your inbox door.