Spending an hour away from your desk can result in an inbox slammed with the type of email you detest - a blitz of special offers, new products and discounts that are immediately sent to the trash folder. Most consumers ignore email marketing campaigns. Click-through rates - the lingo referring to percentage of people who open marketing emails - have dwindled to about 5% in 2010, according to a study released by the marketing firm Epsilon. (For savings tips, also check out Coupon Shopping: Clip Your Way To Savings.)
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But deleting everything means you also may be missing out on some top-dollar deals. To filter through the email clutter and find some deals, here are a few simple questions to ask in determining what should be saved or deleted.
How Big Is the Discount?
One quick way to weed through solicitations is to check the size of the discount offered. Kari DePhillips, who conceptualizes client email campaigns as owner the marketing shop The Content Factory, says that 20% off and up is generally what is considered a good deal. She also suggests keeping an eye out for free shipping.
Is It Loyalty Based?
Many brands disseminate wide-net emails promoting upcoming sales or a new product to potential customers. But more selective is the second-tier communication that rewards consumers - who have previously shopped at the department store or e-commerce site - for their allegiance. Examples of loyalty-based benefits include access to presale opportunities, "Friends and Family" coupons or a point system that issues gift certificates based on how much you spend.
Is It Intended for Me?
It's not the begrudged spam, but airlines, travel sites and social networks are the most likely to use their email distribution lists for cross-promotions with partner companies, says Frank O'Brien, founder of heyconvo.com. The email may arrive in the form of an update on your airlines miles or rewards points. However, you may find it less enticing as the purpose is not, for example, to give you a $100 off your next flight, but to push a deal on behalf of another brand.
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Pros and Cons of Sharing Buying Habits
Disclosing your personal information and buying habits can help keep you informed about insider discounts, upcoming sales and new internet ventures. Swipely.com and Blippy.com are even rewarding consumers with free loot for sharing their credit card transactions.
Not knowing the trail of where corporations have sent your personal information makes opting-out tricky, says Doug Wolfgram, CEO of IntelliProtect, a personal privacy management firm. "Giving away your email assumes that you've given away your privacy and now you have to take actions to stop it," he says.
The Bottom Line
If you want to stay in the loop of all the markdowns, loyalty perks and giveaways with less hassle, go with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Users have the discretion to choose the brands that they are interested in following and receive updates based on their preferences. According to DePhillips, social media doesn't annoy the consumer and the benefit is a more personal, direct channel of information between the brand and the buyer. (For related reading, see Social Networking Your Way To More Money.)
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