Thesis, Antithesis: Amazon Makes Intelligent Use of Email


Shortly after trashing eBay for their sad little email personalization efforts in a recent post, I received an email from Amazon. The start of that email is reproduced below:

Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased “Svefn-G-Englar” by Sigur Rós also purchased the work of M83. For this reason, you might like to know that M83’s “Before the Dawn Heals Us” will be released on January 25, 2005. You can pre-order your copy at a savings of 18% by following the link below.


Now that is what I consider to be an effectively personalized email. Where eBay just sent me whatever crap they were sending to everyone else, “personalizing” it with my account name, Amazon is contacting me based on my prior purchase history.

Both eBay and Amazon have similar kinds of information about me, but Amazon actually made good use of that information (I bought a Sigur Rós album), combining it with information of their own (new M83 release coming out) to create a compelling offer (discount for pre-ordering the album).

I could see the tone of this email putting some people off, but I actually like it: they simply note that there’s a correlation between purchases of Sigur Rós albums an M83 albums…people who buy one also tend to buy the other. Since there’s a new M83 album coming out, people who have bought Sigur Rós might want to pre-order that M83 album at a discount. Simple. No hard sell.

This benefits me, either letting me know about an album that I might like or getting me a discount on a album I was going to buy anyway; this benefits Amazon, since records by French techno-ambient bands don’t tend sell all that well at the best of times. Amazon is likely to get some extra sales of this album because they analyzed the data that they have on their many, many customers, found some significant correlations, and put together a simple communication strategy…and that — I hope and trust — will turn into extra sales for Amazon.

Amazon, 1. eBay, 0.