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What to do about those annoying email newsletters (ever heard of RSS?)

Shopping, Social software

Do you ever get those annoying email newsletters about a store’s new spring line or big semi-annual sale? Maybe I’m the only one who finds those emails annoying, but I bet I’m not.  There must be a better way to get this information.

Spam Sucks

Sometimes when I’m buying something online, I miss the little check box that unsubscribes me from their email newsletters.  A week later, I start to receive email updates on sales and new products.  Occasionally, I don’t mind these email newsletters. But usually I unsubscribe immediately or mark those emails as spam. Just because one time I bought a pretty cute and very cheap swimsuit at Newport News does not mean I want to be kept in the loop about the rest of their products for the rest of my life. (Note: Newport News does have lots of inexpensive swimwear in tons of styles, which is a good way to add a few suits to your summer wardrobe without spending your entire shopping budget.)

But there are some stores and some products I would like to be kept in the loop about.  This does not mean, however, that I want these stores to send me weekly emails.  Email has become so overwhelmed with spam and junk that it’s nearly worthless.  I don’t need more junk in my inbox. Instead, I want to subscribe to these stores’ RSS feeds.

A Bit of Background About RSS

RSS icon

RSS is an unfriendly technical acronym for a smart, simple concept. The basic idea is that content from a website can be gathered up and then sent and read somewhere else.  To use it, you sign up for a website’s RSS feed and that information is sent to your feed reader. You can sign up for dozens, even hundreds, of different websites’ RSS feeds, and just log into one feed reader to read them all. I use Bloglines to read the feeds I subscribe to, but you can manage feeds with any number of services, including Yahoo! and Google. Ever see that orange box in the corner of a website or up in your browser’s address bar? That’s the sign that that site has an RSS feed. You just click on that button to subscribe. Easy peasy.

Using RSS for E-Commerce

I use RSS feeds all the time to keep up with blogs and news; why not use them to keep up with products? I would love to subscribe to feeds from stores I like. Wouldn’t it be great to see all the offers, discounts and new items from all my favorite stores in one place I already visit everyday?

A great thing about RSS feeds is that if I see something I like in my feed reader, I can just click on it and be taken to the originating website. If I was reading my morning feeds and saw a shirt I wanted to look at more, I would just click on it and go straight to the store’s page where I could learn more about and buy that shirt. Just like in the email newsletters, but without muddying up my inbox. And right next to the feeds from all the other stores I like. It’s like my own little RSS-enabled virtual shopping mall.

But I just haven’t seen many stores using RSS, or even that many people talking about how stores should use RSS.  I read some interesting thoughts about this on GetElastic, an e-commerce blog, but I want to know more about this issue. Why don’t more stores have RSS feeds I can subscribe to?

One of the main problems might be that RSS is simply too technical for mainstream shoppers to understand.  Is it really? I can’t decide. I’m only a very slightly technical person, but I’m married to a highly technical person and we own a software company. So I may not be a good judge of this. But if presented appropriately, it seems like something people would understand and even like. Are stores assuming customers don’t want this as an option?

Or is something else going on? Maybe it’s too difficult to implement, technically speaking. Maybe it has something to do with microformats (for more on that topic, you’re should check out my co-founder’s thoughts on microformats at his dev.appozite blog, where he explores the more technical side of shopping and social software). Maybe it’s just not worth the cost or trouble.

So readers, what are your thoughts on this? Do you sign up for those email newsletters? How familiar are you with RSS? How do you find out when your favorite store is having a sale or releasing new items (do any of them use RSS)? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Jenn @ June 27, 2008


  1. Charles Hill June 30, 2008 @ 1:26 am

    Two thoughts:

    1 – There isn’t currently a significant portion of Consumers that use RSS so it’s appeal as a mass communication tool is pretty small. In all my immersion sessions with Consumers none of them have ever heard of RSS.

    2 – RSS really isn’t all that useful for everyone. It requires that you are an information “power-user” and doesn’t really start to pay out until you are aggregating 10+ feeds. Therefore it will ultimately only appeal to a smaller section of total population.

    That being said – RSS is so easy and cheap to implement there isn’t really a good reason to not do it.

  2. Ronney October 16, 2008 @ 6:33 am

    Online shopping is now a easy way of buying anything which they want by using the people want to know more about this.
    Its a nice post about the same thing.

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