Does Spam Work?

Sometimes during my morning spam deletion ritual, in which I remove dozens of emails, mostly for products that I am not biologically able to benefit from, I wonder (as perhaps you do, too): does spam actually work for the spammer? Do people actually buy these misspelled drugs and dubious “enhancement devices”?
imagePhoto credit:Benny Yap/Creative Commons

At last, a team of researchers has taken on the question and produced some empirical data in this report: Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion. (Apparently “conversion” is the term for when spam actually produces a sale or other desired result.) Bottom line – the data collected in this study indicates that, no, it doesn’t work very well. According to the study:

After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price was close to $100. Taken together, these conversions would have resulted in revenues of $2,731.88—a bit over $100 a day for the measurement period or $140 per day for periods when the campaign was active.

And the good news is that spam, while cheaper than mass-mailings, is costly enough that such meagre profits may not sustain the spammers for too long. Now, if we can just get this data out to the spammers. If only there was some way to get a message to thousands of people with a single click…

And, don’t forget that, you, too, can do empirical analysis – with help from our new statistical consulting service!

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