Deftly managing the average email inbox of today means constant pruning performed like some kind of digital bonsai master. Just as soon as you snip and relegate to the trash the latest daily deal, promo code-laden newsletter, or flash sale missive, another one is likely to appear.
And it’s only going to continue, with an estimated 9,000 marketing messages poised to pop into primary inboxes annually by 2014, according to Forrester Research (yup, that breaks down to about 25 per day).
"Our inboxes are being overwhelmed by a lot of sale and retail email," says Kristin Flink Kranias, cofounder of Hipiti, which offers a simple dashboard populated with promos, sales and new arrival information culled from the email marketing communications and Facebook pages of a diverse array of popular retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Forever 21, Target, and Land of Nod.
Users who log in to Hipiti, now in private beta and prepping for a public launch in November, can pick and choose the brands they’d like to follow and filter marketing communications to view, say, only those containing promo codes or flash sales or sales ending later today. For the moment, the number of stores one can follow is capped at 15.
"We’re not necessarily trying to replicate what’s in your inbox, but take what’s the best and most relevant shopping information and present that to you," Kranias says.
Along with displaying a dashboard with the deals and offers shoppers would see if they subscribed to retailers’ emails, Hipiti highlights deals that it deems notable, based on data drawn from marketing messages over time. If a store only offers a handful of sales per year or is running a promotion featuring deeper discounts than usual, Hipiti’s backend technology is designed to differentiate those from the crowd.
Tackling much the same problem, but with a notably different approach are startups Shopilly and Azigo. While Hipiti offers an alternative to signing up for branded email communications from a select set of retailers and a place to view them outside your inbox, both Shopilly and Azigo usher in an organizational component. Both allow users to create a dedicated email address for use when shopping and browsing online. All email communications sent to that address will show up in an attractively displayed Pinterest-like visual stream. Forward emails that land in your inbox to your @shoppilly.com or @azigo.com address, and they’ll show up there, too.
With user permission, Shopilly’s latest feature will actually comb Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail accounts looking for messages with marketing content, filter those messages out (or not, depending on user preference), and display them in the online dashboard.
"Nothing is wrong with the messages themselves," Shopilly CEO and eBay alum Anirban Datta says. "The problem is the medium."
What Datta is alluding to is the age-old problem of getting the right marketing message to the right person at the right time. When viewed during a hectic morning at the office, a branded email newsletter is likely to be, at best, irrelevant and, more likely, an annoyance sent to the trash bin. But stumble across that same email while stuck in traffic on a crosstown cab ride or the moment you’re about to walk past that retailer’s storefront, and you’re likely to feel differently. With a mobile app on the horizon, Shopilly aims to give avid online shoppers access to the deals, sales, and promotions they want to receive at a time they’ll be the most valuable.
There are other perks to the platforms. Shopilly allows users to discover and follow new brands, like items, and track purchases by saving order receipts and other transactional emails. Aiming to be more "general purpose," says CEO Paul Trevithick and with an eye toward managing not only marketing content but a wider range of personal data for its users in the future, Azigo focuses on a broader array of brands and allows users to import existing account information to the platform for future use.
For now, cutting email clutter and viewing deals and sales in visually appealing displays when you want them and outside the confines of your email inbox are the major draws to Hipiti, Shopilly, and Azigo. Down the road, all three report coming developments and added tools to increase social sharing, content personalization, and relevance. The hope, of course, is not only an easier-to-manage inbox, but tools to streamline the good parts of our digital existences.
Says Trevithick: "The reality is that there is only a certain amount of time in a day, and people are looking for ways to aggregate and control and simplify these parts of their daily life."
[Receipt Image: Kellis via Shutterstock]