How COVID-​19 has Affected Email Marketing

BY Rachel Cagle
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Email marketing has been a constant for most advertisers for years. With COVID-​19 driving everyone inside their homes and progressing digital’s daily influence in the lives of Americans all over the country, it seems like this medium’s position of power in the marketing world remains secure. But that doesn’t mean email marketing strategies aren’t changing as a result of the pandemic.

COVID’s Impact on Email Marketing

When the country’s shelter-​in-​place orders first took effect in the middle of March, marketers decided to send out more emails than they had at the start of the month (an average of 17,391 emails vs. 16,614), according to a recent study by GetReponse. Perhaps they thought that with everyone stuck inside that their response rates would go up. However, that isn’t what ended up happening. Instead, with concerns for the economy and their jobs, click-​to-​open rates declined that week, while open rates and click-​through rates declined for the next couple of weeks. Because of the negative response rates, email marketing specialists then decided to cut back on the number of emails they sent out and went down to an average of 15,000+ emails.

And that’s when they started getting a response.

Click-​to-​open rates were the first response type to reemerge from the low they hit mid-​March within a week, rising from 11.9% to 13.94%. Then, GetReponse found that click-​through email response rates and open rates followed suit the week after that, with click-​through rates hitting an all-​time high in 2020 of 3.3% near the end of March and beginning of April.

After seeing such positive results, email marketing specialists decided to keep the average weekly number of emails being sent out throughout the remainder of April and May between 14,000 and 15,500. As a result, open rates continued to increase to approximately 25.14% before dropping slightly and evening out at an average of around 24%, while click-​through and click-​to-​open rates decreased slightly more before hitting a steady levels of around 3% and 12%, respectively, and stabilizing as well. These last two categories did not drop below pre-​pandemic levels.

Retail, Technology, and Food

Retail’s email marketing efforts went through similar changes throughout the first few months of the pandemic, with fluctuating email outreach numbers before settling back down to an average of around 8,500 (pre-​pandemic numbers). After a fluctuating decline of open rates, retail email marketing efforts saw a return to their pre-​pandemic norm of about 33%. Click-​through rates, however, have dropped slightly from the pre-​pandemic average of 3.22% to 2.7% in May.

Thanks to social distancing, the tech industry hasn’t had to try as hard with their email marketing. Their average number of emails sent per week has dropped from pre-​pandemic numbers of 14,000+ emails to just under 11,000 per week. Even though their weekly email average has dropped, their open rates have grown from 21.17% pre-​pandemic to 31.01% in May and click-​through rates have grown from 3.4% to 4.45%.

Restaurants and food-​related businesses have done fairly well for themselves despite the pandemic. Their average weekly email numbers dropped from 9,000+ pre-​pandemic to 7,000+ in May, with average open rates declining from 27.95% to 21.1%, but open rates raising slightly from 1.65% to 1.72%.

Email success rates are all about content. For example, according to AudienceSCAN, Email Ad Responders in general say that their favorite emails to receive from businesses include coupons/​discount codes (67.9%), limited-​time offers/​sales (52.3%) and new product announcements (38%). What are your client’s target audiences’ favorite email messages? If you’re not sure, take a look at their audience profiles on AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel to find out.