I recently moved one of my email accounts that did not have spam filtering, and immediately had my inbox flooded with spam. I averaged about 40 – 60 spam emails a day – with the usual topics repeated over and over. Interestingly, the amount of spam I got on the weekends was a lot lower than during the week – which I take is some sort of logic in the spammers algorithm to make them seem to be legitimate businesses?
Anyway, that got me thinking about the response rate that these emails generate – there must be a rational business case to sending these emails over and over.
The most recent study I could find was from 2008 – the study itself is a complex read, but this article provides a good summary. According to this study in 2008, about 1 in 1.25 million emails resulted in a sale. Since this spammer infected other machines and got those machines to send the emails, the actual cost to the spammers was likely low enough to make this a viable business model. It would be interesting to see an updated study – since 2008 more (likely inexperienced web users) are on the internet, however spam filters have gotten better. But given the prevalence of spam, the business model must still work.
In fact, we can now look forward better, smarter robo-callers. This report of a new technology is an example of what is coming as computers are getting better at holding automated conversations. This technology is probably more expensive to disperse than spam, but the response rates are likely higher.
And finally, one bit of spam trivia- here is a great explanation as to why the Nigerian prince emails that most people have received over the years are not polished and have misspellings. It is likely intentional, as a way to screen people who would not fall for the scam. As a spammer, you would only need to engage those people who can’t read well (and are likely economically disadvantaged), or desperate enough to overlook the suspiciously bad spelling and grammar. Seems logical to me.
As with any marketing technology, it will be interesting to see if the tools to block advertising can continue to stay ahead of advertising innovations. Regardless, my guess is advertising in all the media we consume will continue to find new ways to annoy us.