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'Spam season' is upon us; keep your inbox clean

Checking your email can seem like playing "Spam Invaders," where your objective is to kill as many retailer email messages before they reach your brain and drive you crazy.  Just in time for the holidays, three new online services, ShopillyAzigo, and Hipti, aim to help you extract the “spiced ham” from the spam. 

With retailers starting their holiday email campaigns even earlier this year than last, and the number of emails they're sending out each week projected to rise, consumers will need all the help they can get.

At the broadest level, each of the three services gives you a Pinterest-esque, photo-heavy grid as a dashboard for keeping track of the same deals you would get if you were signed up for the retailer's customer email list. Where they differ is to what degree they help you manage your existing personal inbox, how deep the filtering tools are, and how good they look.

"Good-looking spam?" Yes, these services are making it possible.

Shopilly is the most-promising and spiffiest of the bunch. Its killer feature is that, with your permission, it imports spam and commercial messages from your inbox. You can set the filter to keep out the riffraff so that only trusted Shoplift-affiliated brands show up, or that all email from merchants and newsletters goes in. It can even delete the original messages from your inbox. You can also set it so that the deleted messages are archived in a special folder, just in case the e-maid gets overzealous and an important message goes missing. The service also gives you a custom @shopilly.com email address that you can give retailers, at checkout, when creating an online account, or filling out those surveys and sweepstakes that you know are just email harvesters.

Azigo also lets you transform your brand emails spam into an appealing streaming visual matrix, and provides an @azigo email address to give out instead of your personal email. What the site will do differently is let you import your existing online account information so you can see that data in your dashboard too. It also boasts a broader spectrum of brands to choose to follow, although '"more" doesn't always mean "better."

Hipiti's approach is different in that it doesn't interact with your inbox at all. Instead, you pick brands to follow and you see the same deals on your dashboard as if you subscribed to their email list. The most promising feature of the site is its deal-filtering mechanism, allowing you to sort your deals by when they end, the type of deal offers, like flash sale, free shipping, or containing a coupon code, and topic category. While currently in private beta, it's not hard to find an invite code for Hipiti with a little light Googling.

In the end, there's nothing wrong with merchant emails or spam, per se, Anirban Datta, Shoppily CEO and former eBay senior product manager, told NBC News. It's how the messages are presented, and that they interrupt your personal email. "Shopping is visual," he said. "Email was not designed for shopping."

(Tip of the hat to Fast Company.)

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