Shopilly takes the most effective (and annoying) form of marketing -- email -- and makes it awesome

By Erin Griffith , written on January 2, 2013

From The News Desk

It's officially gift card season. There is no excuse to let them expire thanks to the proliferation of e-commerce aggregation sites out there. You might try an offer aggregator like Hipiti or ShopitToMe, an idea generator like Pickie, or a more DIY bookmarking site like Pinterest, WantWorthy or SkinnyScoop.

Over the holidays I discovered a new organization tool that aims to make all of these offerings little less less vital. San Jose-based Shopilly improves upon the most effective, but loathed, part of e-commerce marketing, the good old email, with a customized shopping inbox. So, just in the way that your Facebook account has a separate inbox for messages from random college acquaintances and your Twitter account has an inbox for messages from random professional acquaintances, your Shopilly account is an aggregation of all your emails from e-commerce sites.

Before I go further, the obvious -- no one really wants yet another inbox, let alone for what's essentially marketing spam. But Shopilly's visual inbox, offering an image of the email with the sale or offer summarized, is actually fun to browse. Especially when it's all in one place, so you're in shopping mode when you visit. The thing I like best is that next time I shop at a new site, I will use my Shopilly email address (automatically generated) so that all communications about my e-commerce orders, from reciepts and shipping to marketing and sale communications, will live in one central place.

The site faces an uphill battle of getting me to continue to return regularly. The company very smartly does not spam my inbox with daily updates about the emails already in my inbox, but without emails or an app, it's hard to remember to return.

However, after a couple of days of browsing for new stuff to blow my gift cards on by going directly to my favorite retailers' websites, I found myself getting into the habit of kicking off the browsing at Shopilly. The inbox highlights what's new and on sale from my favorite brands, along with editorial picks of the best deals from brands I don't necessarily follow.

It's not perfect. A Verizon bill, iTunes receipt and a few Facebook alerts found their way into the Shopilly inbox. And like Pickie, ShopItToMe and Hipiti, I must endure a somewhat tedious process of choosing all my favorite brands and putting my preferences in. Lastly, I wish the site somehow removed the shopping emails from my inbox so they'd only show up at Shopilly. I enjoy J. Crew or One Kings Lane too much to unsubscribe from their inbox-clogging emails but it's better to consume all of this content when I'm actually in shopping mode, not chasing down details for five different deadlines.

Shopilly has raised a small round of angel capital from private investors and monetizes through affiliate fees, as well as sponsored placements and customer acquisition fees. An app is in the works, VP of business development Jeff Snow says.